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China finds way to reuse 50m lead-acid batteries a year

Mon, 11/21/2016 - 14:46 -- Paul Crompton

A Chinese company may have found a way to save 50 million of the country’s lead-acid batteries reaching land-fill after developing an activator it claims can restore the battery’s capacity.

Around two hundred million lead-acid batteries are discarded in China each year, but at least 25% of them could be refurbished, according to Guangzhou Hong Huai Energy Company.

“The core reason of the short life of lead-acid batteries is that the inevitable product Pb2SO4 (lead sulfate) would gradually form irreversible lead sulfate crystals,” Shangnan, Huang, the chairman of Hong Huai Energy Company, said.

The company had successively invested ¥60 million ($9 million) to carry out the development of the battery regeneration technology.

The battery activator in an acidic environment, combined with the external application of working voltage, can catalyse the decomposition of lead sulfate crystals, and then turn sulfate crystals into substances that can continue to participate in chemical reactions, which make batteries become functional again.

Using high-definition electron microscopy the company observed how the Pb2SO4 crystal on the battery plate had a large crystal shape before regeneration. But after repairing, it turns into floc.

However, some cynicism needs to be practiced, because as one battery industry insider told BEST, that equates to around 500,000 tonnes per year, or around $1billion in metal value. So an important question is, if Guangzhou Hong Huai Energy's figure is true, is it going to be cost effective? The insider called the scheme, ahem, 'bovine excrement'— or words to that effect. BEST questions how the company will test the sulfation of that many batteries.

The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding.

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