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by Sofia Villegas
22 November 2023
Scotland leads research to boost EV batteries life cycle

Louise Horsfall and her research group | Frame

Scotland leads research to boost EV batteries life cycle

The University of Edinburgh is leading biotech research on using engineered bacteria to reuse metals from electrical vehicle (EV) batteries. 

If successful, the bio-based recycling process could help prevent these raw materials from ending up in landfills, which are a significant contributor to climate change. 

In 2018, a report by  international financial institution World Bank, revealed methane emissions from landfills could increase by around 70 per cent by 2050 as the global population grows.  

Louise Horsfall, research leader, said: "We often read about initiatives to reduce EV battery costs and improve their performance, but as the market for green transport grows, we also need to consider what happens to the technology once it is no longer fit for use.  

"This project is about using cutting-edge sustainable biotechnology to find ways of tackling that challenge and, in turn, extract some of the most valuable metals that can go back into the sector at the early stages of vehicle production." 

With the UK being among the top consumers in Europe for EV vehicles, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, it is also hoped the breakthrough will help "re-shore" and create a circular chain of supply and demand, according to Liz Fletcher, director of business engagement at the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC). 

Referring to partnerships with fellow organisations, Horsfall added: "The work of the Edinburgh Genome Foundry to select the best-performing bacteria, combined with the scale-up expertise we’ve been able to access via IBioIC, means we are heading in a positive direction towards turning the research idea into an industrial reality.” 

The study will also add on efforts towards achieving Scotland’s National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology , which looks to reach a £1.2bn in associated turnover within the next two years.  

The research forms part of the wider initiative by the University of Birmingham on recycling lithium-ion batteries. Funded by the Faraday Institution, the scheme aims to cut the economics and environmental footprint of recycling processes.

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