It would be easy to think that if almost all of a common industrial material is recycled, it is completely sustainable. But such a conclusion overlooks the nature and effects of the recycling process itself.
Lead acid batteries are widely used in our society – in cars and other vehicles, for emergency lighting, and as power backups for hospitals. The basic design and the materials used to make them have not changed much since the 1800s, with a standard battery consisting of a plastic casing, a quantity of acid, and lead terminals that sit in the acid. All these ingredients are widely recycled, with most G7 nations achieving recycling rates of over 95 percent, but unfortunately, the industry that recycles the lead is a major contributor to carbon emissions.
Why is this? It’s because of the intense heat required to melt the lead terminals into lead bullion, ready to be used again. Melting furnaces need to reach temperatures of more than 1100°C, which requires large amounts of power. This means that for every 10,000 tonnes of lead acid batteries recycled, as much as 4,500 tonnes of CO2, 4 tonnes of SO2, 2 tonnes of NO2 and 1 tonne of lead particulates may be produced.
Aurelius Environmental was founded in 2014 to work towards a world without waste, using technology to create a better world. Its co-founders combine extensive knowledge of the commercial battery market and recycling technology with expertise in chemistry and intellectual property (IP) to create innovative solutions to current sustainability challenges.
Aurelius Environmental’s FenixPb process can recover the active material in batteries (the so-called “leady oxide,” which is a mixture of lead metal and lead oxide) while reducing the carbon footprint by more than 85 percent. It is a zero-waste process, and substantially reduces the energy used because the process takes place in cold water instead of in a furnace.
Furthermore, the active material produced through the recycling process has a higher porosity and lends itself to superior batteries – as it is more energy dense in comparison to batteries produced from mined lead metal.
IP has been fundamental to Aurelius’ success so far, with the underlying IP giving the founders confidence to build the business from zero to a GBP5 million plus turnover partly through their own personal investment. This IP position has enabled Aurelius Environmental to engage with investors and licensees all over the world, with more than 40 expressions of interest from around the globe. The company is currently negotiating licenses in all key global markets.