Engineers have developed technology that can extend the life of cell phone batteries and prevent them from ending up in landfills.
Researchers at Victoria’s RMIT University found that by using high-frequency sound waves to remove rust that hinders battery performance, they can triple battery life.
Amgad Rezk, one of the leading senior researchers, explained The new newspaper that the ability to quickly restore oxidized materials to a near pristine state was a “significant development” and a breakthrough in terms of the circular economy.
“Materials used in electronics, including batteries, generally degrade after two or three years of use due to rusting,” said Dr. Rezk.
“With our method, we can extend the life of battery components by up to three times.”
The team is working with a nanomaterial called ‘MXene’, a class of material that they say promises to be an exciting alternative to lithium for batteries in the future.
Leslie Yeo, Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and Senior Senior Researcher, said MXene was similar to graphene with high electrical conductivity.
“Unlike graphene, MXenes are highly adaptable and open up a whole range of possible technological applications in the future,” said Professor Yeo.
The big challenge in using MXene was that it rusted easily, hindering its electrical conductivity and making it unusable, he said.
“To overcome this challenge, we found that sound waves with a certain frequency remove rust from MXene and restore it to its original state.”
Professor Rezk hopes the innovation means recyclable batteries can last up to nine years.
This would help meet the challenge of electronic waste (e-waste).
E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world.
According to Clean Up Australia, “e-waste is the fastest growing component of the municipal solid waste stream”, growing three times the rate of any other waste stream.
Only 10 percent of used hand batteries, including mobile phone batteries, are collected for recycling in Australia, which is low by international standards.
The other 90 percent of batteries end up in landfills or are disposed of incorrectly.
According to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020, the volume of e-waste worldwide is expected to reach 74 million tonnes by 2030, an increase of approximately 21 percent compared to 2019.
The RMIT team says the next steps are to work with industry to integrate the acoustic device into existing manufacturing systems and processes.
The team is also exploring using its invention to remove oxide layers from other materials for sensing and renewable energy.
“We are eager to work with industrial partners so that our method of rust removal can be scaled up,” said Professor Yeo.
The MobileMuster program is a convenient way for Australians to recycle their mobile devices and make a positive impact on the environment.
The government-accredited initiative is run by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association. The aim is to collect and recycle old mobile phones in an environmentally friendly way.
MobileMuster collects all brands and models of mobile phones, including batteries and accessories.
You can hand in your old mobile phones at a collection point or send them in a prepaid bag.
And if you’re concerned about the data left on your phone, the MobileMuster website has some videos that walk you through the steps to delete or transfer data.