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Electric cars: bacteria could improve battery recycling

Electric cars could soon benefit from a more ecological recycling solution, in particular with the use of certain bacteria capable of isolating rare metals.

The electric car is on the way to establishing itself as the mobility solution of tomorrow. According to recent studies, it would also be much less polluting than thermal vehicles, including when it obtains its supplies from petroleum circuits. However, battery recycling still remains a black spot in the operation of electric vehicles. If the latter generate a low carbon impact during their lifetime, they are still very little recycled, in particular because of the presence of metals such as cobalt, lithium, manganese or nickel.

Metal-eating bacteria

Until now, decontaminating batteries with a view to their recycling necessarily involved cumbersome methods and chemical treatments based on polluting agents. Thanks to a new process developed by researchers at Coventry University, it would now be possible touse bacteria to oxidize different metals present in car batteries. The baptized method “Bioleaching” (or biolixivation) is not really new, since it is already applied to clean printed circuits and solar panels. On the other hand, this is the first time that it would be adapted to the automotive market.

According to the results of the study conducted by the University of Coventry, this method by bioleaching would not only be very efficient, but also much more ecological. The only downside is that it would require a significant investment on the part of the current recycling channels, which are not yet equipped accordingly. However, the process could establish itself as a long-term solution, at a time when more and more car brands are planning to switch to all-electric within ten years.

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