It seems like everything uses batteries these days which means we're producing a large amount of used batteries on a regular basis. Because they contain metals and toxic materials, it's vitally important that batteries are recycled, but with all of the different types and sizes of batteries these days, how can a recycling facility handle the volume and sorting efficiently?
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology have developed a machine that uses artificial intelligence to identify and sort batteries at recycling facilities. Called the Optisort, the machine uses optical recognition technology to sort up to 10 batteries per second by comparing them to batteries in its database. Like the human brain can be trained to recognize new things, the Optisort was trained to identify 2,000 different types of batteries by taking pictures of them from different angles and creating a database of those shots.
Gizmag reports, "Batteries are fed into the Optisort on a conveyor belt, where each one is photographed by the machine’s camera. Each image is then compared to a database of existing shots of different types of batteries, until a match is made. Based on the battery’s chemical content, a jet of compressed air is then used to direct it into a designated bin."
This automated system also allows recyclers to store information about how much of each type of material it has collected based on the batteries it has sorted.
"For each single battery, the system stores and spits out information about for example brand, model and type. This allows the recycler to tell a larger market exactly what types of material it can offer, which we believe may increase the value through increased competition," said Hans-Eric Melin, CEO of Optisort.
Right now many collection and sorting companies are paying to get rid of batteries, but armed with this information, the companies could create a market for the materials contained in the batteries and make money instead, while also helping to keep these things out of landfills.
The company has installed the machine at two recycling facilities already: one at Renova in Sweden which recycles half of all batteries collected in Sweden and one at G&P Batteries where one-third of the UK's collected batteries are recycled.
You can watch the machine in action below.