Upcycling spent lead-acid battery paste: nanostructured leady oxides from metal-organic frameworks
By controlling the conditions, we have been able to convert the MOF into battery alpha oxide; beta oxide; and controlled mixtures of alpha and beta. Moreover, it is possible to produce red lead or lead sesquioxide as the final product. This level of control could enable fine-tuning of battery plate for specific applications (e.g. more power in automotive batteries, more cycling for stationary batteries and renewable energy storage, etc). Meanwhile, the quantity of lead in these leady oxides can be controlled to anything from negligible (less than 1% lead) to greater than 20%.
The wet chemistry has been scaled up to 5 tonnes per hour continuous treatment of spent paste (modular), while the life-cycle analysis shows potential for reducing the carbon footprint of traditional recycling by approximately 85% and waste by more than 90%. The process saves considerable energy by not relying on a traditional furnace or electro-process – saving the equivalent of at least 3,000 tonnes of coal per 10,000 tonnes of batteries processed.
Dr Athan Fox is a scientist and entrepreneur based in Cambridge, UK. He holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Cambridge, and has amassed considerable expertise in the development, scaling up and commercialisation of circular economy innovation. Dr Fox and his team at Ever Resource have developed innovative solutions for the recycling of lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries, including a novel desulphurisation process; hydrometallurgical processing of end-of-life battery paste; and production of highly active, nanostructured leady oxides. In 2022, the team was awarded the Cambridge Independent “Cleantech Company of the Year” award. Dr Fox previously held roles in Technology Transfer and has worked with publicly listed companies and start-ups to bring next-generation circular economy innovations into the UK and European markets. He sits on the Board of ALGOLiON, a high-tech Israeli company working on innovative solutions for lithium-ion battery safety.