Not hugely so much in fact

Lithium and cobalt are nightmares to recycle and very toxic.

Where do these ideas come from?

Cobalt is recycled all the time. Get me a pile of scrap Co and I’ll have it sold by lunchtime. Even if you’re reading this at 11.45 am.

Lithium very toxic?

Sure, there’s something called lithium toxicity but this is about peeps who have a pharmaceutical dose that’s too high. It’s not about someone leaning up against a battery.


23 thoughts on “Not hugely so much in fact”

  1. Actually all chemicals are toxic, as Paracelsus pointed out in the 16th century, but the vast majoity are not at all difficult to handle safely

  2. Technical question

    In what form is the cobalt in a battery ? Can it be extracted and recycled ?

  3. Cobalt’s expensive enough that yes, you can extract and recycle. Form only matters as to the expense with metals. Get something expensive enough and you can recycle it from any form.

  4. “Better alternatives that will not cause the massive pollution and environmental degradation lithium will create are coming. They will provide more efficient capacitance and, or provide a more reliable service range. But give them time. It might be carbon-ion or aluminium-based new capacitance tech, or it might be developing blue and green hydrogen. There are better ways to proceed.”

    It’s the confidence with which that’s written. I don’t suppose the writer’s got any idea of the physics & chemistry problems that would have to be solved. May not even be solvable. It’s about energy densities. Hydrocarbons combine two oxidisable elements in a package that can be in a liquid form. You run them through an ICE using atmospheric nitrogen as the working fluid & you get a very efficient energy system. Where mass is important, the mass of the vehicle falls as the fuel is consumed. If you’re talking about running aircraft on batteries, mass requires lift causes drag requires energy. The batteries mass the same at the end of the flight as at the take-off. Throughout the flight, you use the same energy just to keep the batteries aloft.
    As for hydrogen, whatever colour it is, you’re replacing those carbon bonds in hydrocarbons with a mechanical containment. The carbon container has the advantage of burning the container along with the hydrogen, extracting energy from it. You only have to look at the Shuttle external tank to see where mechanical containment of hydrogen takes you.

  5. re. the toxicity of Lithium….

    I’ve yet to see any of the usual lot screeching about the mental-drug risk from ash contamination, after half a ton of batteries has gone up in the latest Tesla-toastie.

    Since Lithium is prescribed for depression, I guess everyone at the fire gets real cheerful?

  6. @BiS

    You know what you’re talking about. Stop it!

    We’re talking milk floats here. This is the EV “revolution” it will happen, you reactionary big oil whore dinosaur, because people morally superior to you say it will.

    Until it doesn’t of course.

    Then they will – from the commanding heights of said moral superiority – point out the failing/sabotage of those who wouldn’t listen.

    A lump of iron/aluminium, a plastic tank and an incredibly convenient, energy dense and easily transportable liquid. This has served the world well for a hundred years and it is to go……because some crappy computer model predicts a zombie apocalypse another hundred years down the line if fossil fuels continue to be burned (forget the hundreds of coal fired power stations being built).

    Milk float? I’ll join the labour party first!!

  7. I wondered about this Tim – I’d imagine there are Cobalt compounds like Cobalt Chloride or Cobalt Bromide that are highly toxic but my guess is these aren’t being used in battery technology. Most people are woefully ignorant around Chemistry and Physics in general. That’s one area where Murphy’s ignorance might be closer to the norm than on many other topics!

    Speaking of which – have you seen his post on the ’10 pillars of Fascism’ – shows a lack of self awareness that is eye-opening…

  8. If you think about it, with the money being spent on all this nonsense, it would be possible to build a closed loop hydrocarbon based energy system. There’s millions of unusable square miles of the plant to do it on.
    Start with building a chain of solar energy farms down the west coast of N.Africa. Mauritania. W. Sahara. Use the electricity produced to desalinate seawater. Start building algae tank farms out into the Sahara using the electricity & the water. Pump air through the water provides the CO2 algae needs to grow more algae. Harvest, ferment, distil, the algae to produce alcohol. You have the base feedstock to produce any hydrocarbon you want. Recycle the residue algal sludge to recover the minerals & trace elements needed for the next batch of algae. Keep expanding east until you meet the similar project being run out of the Gulf.
    There’s not one bit of tech isn’t state-of-the-art now. There’s even oil in the area to refine for the plastics. The CO2 goes into the system balances the CO2 emitted by the combustion of the product. By-product spin-off would you’d get a great deal of the Sahara become farmable land.

  9. Charles Brecknell

    We supplied a Lithium Chloride crystalliser for FMC ( formally Lithium Corp of America). Nasty stuff because it absorbed moisture from the atmosphere. Any dust getting into the building turned into a sticky, corrosive mess. The plant had to be made of nickel. The operators looked pretty depressed, but that could be because they lived in Bromborough…

  10. BiS, the problem is not supposed to have a practical solution. It is a political weapon.

    Our counters ought to be twofold.
    !. Shout ‘This is Bullshit’ whenever they expound the ‘problem’.

    2. Shout ‘You First’ whenever they propose an alteration of lifestyle.

  11. The CapX article is a load of tosh and full of inaccuracies.
    Point:”British Airships were not so great. The R101 crashed, killing important people”
    The private enterprise R100 was fine, and a good example of the type. See Mr Norway’s ‘Slide Rule’. The public sector R101 was a death trap where political expedience overruled reality. see Space Shuttle.
    Oh, and it didn’t kill important people: no one on the ground was killed by the R101 CFT. Only politicians and drivers that should have known better. The first was a public good.

    Airships were the only way of solving long-distance air travel with the technology of 1910-1920. It was superseded by flying boats, because mile long concrete runways didn’t exist all over the Empire. Bootstrapping technology. Indeed, one could argue only the emergency of WW2 caused such a rapid rollout of concrete runways, for USAAF & RAF customer-focussed packet delivery networks. That left loads of infrastructure for passenger air services, after t’were done.

    The thesis of the CapX article, that EEV are a dead-end technology is true enough, but not because Lithium ion is a particularly bad technology, and some unicorn-fart battery will change the laws of physics. It’s because EEV vehicles are a really stupid idea, golf carts & shopping trolleys excepted.
    You can only get worse, by……oh….hydrogen, that’d be even sillier.
    All depend on the Ostrich Principle: cannot see the power station? Therefore no emissions exist.

    We already have an excellent fuel for transport, as BiS explains: it’s liquid hydrocarbon.
    Regarding BiS’s algae in North Africa approach, wouldn’t you need to send in an army to conquer the territory, exterminate or enslave the occupants and to defend the expensively built power colony against threat, from competitor Powers or local insurgency?. Sort of 17th-18th century North America style?

    And what about the Green’s response to the desert desecration! Unique biosystems to be destroyed. Shock Horror. Sierra Club wound up to 11.

    I think the EEV thing won’t last very long. I note Bojo doesn’t use an EEV, but is carried around by ICE car and helicopter. After you, mate.

  12. TtC: You had exactly the same thought as I had about BiS’s idea. That part of the world isn’t particularly stable politically so we would need to colonise it again to stop the locals fucking it all up. As for greening the Sahara, good idea – lots of it was greener in the past. However to get it green again probably needs much more CO2 in the atmosphere.

    BoJo’s greenery is almost certainly to keep from getting yet another earful from Carrie. I’m wondering when the first scheduled load shedding operation will take place. We already had an accidental foretaste a couple of years ago and although it didn’t last long, it discommoded an awful lot of people. As we’ve lived with 24/7/52 electricity for so long, lots of modern kit probably won’t reboot properly from an unscheduled power loss – see the trains in that last episode.

  13. @TG
    I saw a National Grid report (Prob. on Not a Lot of People Know That) that said if we have a serious outage requiring a grid cold-start, it will take at least a week in Scotland, even after the NE is recovered.
    Over a week without any electricity. What a good thing we still have boilers and cars for grown-ups.
    On the upside, that should queer Nicola Stalin’s pitch for a while 🙂

  14. @TtC & TG
    Yeah. There’s a little war going on there now. But I’ve been in the Sahara. Albeit the Algerian bit. The desert’s your friend & ally. There really is bugger all there. Just miles & miles of nothing with a few tiny islands of habitation. Mounting some sort of insurgency over all that empty desert would be a logistical nightmare. They’d stick out like a fly on a dinnerplate. It’s not like trying to hold down Iraq or Afghanistan.
    All you’d need is the determination to want to do it. Always make sure your current area of operation is behind some decent razor wire & possibly an environmentally friendly minefield. Sod Diana. What did she ever know about area denial? Good covering of electronic trip wires. Some drone surveillance. It’s not as if we’ve not been willing to make ourselves a military nuisance in all sorts of places of little consequence to us. Let’s go & do it somewhere we can gain from the results.

  15. Tim the Coder: “Over a week without any electricity. (…)
    On the upside, that should queer Nicola Stalin’s pitch for a while “

    No, she would rub her hands with glee. Something to whinge about and blame England for.

  16. BiS: solar power in Africa would require large amounts of space filled with expensive equipment – lots of copper etc.
    Putting that behind a fence doesn’t do anything. The fence needs to be backed up by guards with guns and the ability to use them, otherwise the equipment just gets stolen or sabotaged a little slower than sticking it out in the desert by itself. Minefields that are not covered by fire again just slow things down a little bit.

  17. Coal-fired railway engines were a dead-end technology, but how useful they proved to be in the interim. Ditto sailing ships, etc, etc.

  18. Must admit I’d rather get the energy to synthesise hydrocarbon fuels from nukes, not solar.

    I suppose I’m just naturally stingy. Consider the cost of the wars in the Middle East. Nice simple fracking is a far cheaper way to solve the energy supply problem. I’d argue that nukes are also cheaper than conquering the Sahara. Though perhaps we could dump the radioactive waste there.

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