The research carried out by a team of engineers from Melbourne’s RMIT University has successfully proven the ability of a new innovative technology to dramatically increase the ongoing performance of phone batteries. Rather than disposing of batteries after two or three years, we could have recyclable batteries that last for up to nine years by using high-frequency sound waves to remove rust that inhibits battery performance, the team says.
In Australia just 10 per cent of used handheld batteries, including those in mobile phones, are collected for recycling in Australia. Not only is this low by international standards, it is made worse by the remaining 90 per cent of batteries being sent to landfill or disposed of incorrectly. With these batteries containing potentially hazardous materials, incorrect disposal can have significant negative impact on the environment.
Another challenge to the recovery of batteries is the high cost of recycling lithium and other precious metals they contain. However, the team from RMIT also believe their innovation could help address this challenge through a nanomaterial called, a class of materials they say promises to be an exciting alternative to lithium for batteries in the future.
Leslie Yeo, the project lead and Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at RMIT, said MXene was similar to graphene in terms of its high electrical conductivity.
“Unlike graphene, MXenes are highly tailorable and open up a whole range of possible technological applications in the future,” said Yeo from RMIT’s School of Engineering in a statement.
The big challenge with using MXene was that it rusted easily, thereby inhibiting electrical conductivity and rendering it unusable, he said.
“To overcome this challenge, we discovered that sound waves at a certain frequency remove rust from MXene, restoring it to close to its original state,” Yeo said.
The team’s innovation could one day help to revitalise MXene batteries every few years, extending their lifetime by up to three times, he said.
“The ability to prolong the shelf life of MXene is critical to ensuring its potential to be used for commercially viable electronic parts,” Yeo said.
Electronic waste (or e-waste) is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world, and Australia is no exception. According to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) we produced 511,000 tonnes of e-waste in 2019 as a country. This is equivalent to 20 kg per person and greatly exceeds the global average of 7 kg.
You can recycle your mobile phones and accessories at any one of the 3,000+ MobileMuster public drop-off points, including your local Optus, Telstra, Vodafone, Officeworks and Woolworth stores.
For more information on electronics and help finding recycling services for them, visit recyclingnearyou.com.au/electrical.
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