US scientists are investigating whether fungi can be used to recycle lithium batteries.
With this type of battery being used in everything from mobile phones to electric vehicles, new efficient processes to recycle used batteries are being sought.
Researchers from the University of South Florida have found that fungi could be used to remove lithium and cobalt from these batteries, and both of these are valuable resources.
Current methods involve high temperatures and chemical treatment, but this process involves the fungi generating organic acids that remove the metals from other materials.
University of South Florida project team leader Jeffrey A Cunningham said: “The idea first came from a student who had experience extracting some metals from waste slag left over from smelting operations.
“We were watching the huge growth in smartphones and all the other products with rechargeable batteries, so we shifted our focus. The demand for lithium is rising rapidly, and it is not sustainable to keep mining lithium resources.”
The process is still at a very early stage and requires more development work.