Process recycles packaging “peanuts” into battery components

US researchers have developed a process for recycling packaging waste into high performance battery electrodes

The uniquitious foam chips or “packaging peanuts” used around to safely cushion products in transit are notoriously difficult to recycle, and are frequently dumped in land-fill sites where they can take decades to break down.

This could be about to change thanks to a team from Purdue University in the US which has developed a process that enables the ubiquitous chips to be converted into carbon electrodes for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are claimed to outperform conventional graphite electrodes

The anodes in most of today’s lithium-ion batteries are made of graphite. Lithium ions are contained in a liquid called an electrolyte, and these ions are stored in the anode during recharging. Commercial anode particles are about 10 times thicker than the new anodes and have higher electrical resistance, which increase charging time.

Research findings indicate that the new anodes can charge faster and deliver higher “specific capacity” compared to commercially available graphite anodes, Pol said.

To produce the anodes the “peanuts” are heated between 500 and 900 degrees Celsius in a furnace under inert atmosphere in the presence or absence of a transition metal salt catalyst.” The resulting material is then processed into the anodes.