But producing so many electric vehicles in a decade would cause a surge in demand for metals like lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese.
Instead of mining new sources of these metals, why not recycle/reuse what’s already out there?
Bioleaching, also called biomining is one such eco-friendly approach to recycling these batteries. This process employs microbes which can oxidise metal as part of their metabolism. It has been widely used in the mining industry, where microorganisms are used to extract valuable metals from ores.
More recently, this technique has been used to clean up and recover materials from electronic waste, particularly the printed circuit boards of computers, solar panels, contaminated water and even uranium dumps.
Bioleaching Research Group at Coventry University has found that all metals present in EV batteries can be recovered using bioleaching. Bacteria like Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans and other non-toxic species target and recover the metals individually without the need for high temperatures or toxic chemicals.
Bioleaching stops once they’ve removed all the precious metals from the electronic waste and they’re floating in solution after this a electro-chemical methods is used to fish out these metals and make them useful for supply chains.
Reference- The Conversation, Journal Nature, Science Direct, Clean Technica