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Utilizing Microalgae in Recycling EV Batteries

With the rise in demand of electric vehicles (EVs), new challenges have emerged, in particular proper disposal of used batteries, which pose a severe environmental threat. While recycling heavy metals like lithium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel used in batteries is the preferred approach, the extraction process often leads to environmental pollution. Currently, the lack of advanced technology makes recycling more expensive than disposal.

However, one company has reportedly successfully tackled this formidable challenge. Korea's Green Mineral Inc. has pioneered a groundbreaking technology that harnesses the power of micro-algae to extract lithium from used batteries, marking a significant global milestone.

Jung Kwang-Hwan, the representative of Green Mineral, was recently interviewed at his research lab in Sogang University in Seoul. Jung emphasized, "In contrast to conventional chemical methods that rely on organic solvents for battery recycling, our environmentally friendly approach provides ecological benefits while also being economically viable." He described this as a "paradigm shift in the realm of used battery recycling."

As a professor in the Department of Life Sciences at Sogang University, Jung initially conducted research on using micro-algae to eliminate substances emitting radiation. Over a decade ago, he made a significant discovery regarding the applicability of this technology for extracting lithium from used batteries.

His attention was drawn to the presence of Chlorella, a type of micro-algae. Chlorella, renowned as a functional food, possesses the unique ability to convert metal ions such as lithium into carbonates. "It operates on a principle similar to the process of shellfish creating shells," Jung explained. "When calcium enters the cell membrane of shellfish and reacts with carbon dioxide, it undergoes a transformation into calcium carbonate, which solidifies and releases. Likewise, Chlorella exhibits a similar reaction with lithium, leading to biomineralization, where cells form minerals."


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