"We got a lot of 'oh wow!' responses, from eight-year-olds wanting to know how it worked to EPA officials wondering why no one had done this before," says senior Zachary Oldenburg. "My response to the EPA was, 'Because no one else had a project leader who's a mining engineer.'"
Pan, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University, earned his graduate degrees in mining engineering. It was his idea to adapt 20th century mining technology to recycle lithium ion batteries, from the small ones in cell phones to the multi-kilowatt models that power electric cars. Pan figured the same technologies used to separate metal from ore could be applied to spent batteries. So he gave his students a crash course in basic minerals processing methods and set them loose in the lab.
To advance their research, Pan has received funding from the Michigan Technological University Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) statewide Innovation Hub.
The project was funded by a $15,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and an article on their work, "Recovery of Active Cathode Materials from Lithium-Ion Batteries Using Froth Flotation," authored by Pan, Zhan and Oldenburg, was published online June 15 in Sustainable Materials and Technologies.
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