Eindhoven University of Technology students register batteries in waste streams with AI

Team CORE presents a new system with AI technology to detect batteries in waste streams to prevent waste fires.

CORE, a student team from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU / e), has developed a new installation that can recognize batteries in waste streams using artificial intelligence (AI). With TEMNOS – as the installation is called – CORE also wants to be able to sort the waste in the future. Not only does this provide opportunities for better recycling of valuable raw materials from batteries, but hazardous waste fires caused by battery-containing products also occur more frequently during recycling of these waste streams. These fires can be prevented with the new installation.

CORE’s TEMNOS installation tackles two different challenges. On the one hand, the installation aims to improve the current recycling process. Better sorting at the beginning of the process allows for more efficient recycling later in the processing process. This makes it possible to recover more raw materials from waste streams. The second challenge is the prevention of waste fires in (e-waste) waste treatment, where the vast majority of fires are due to hidden batteries.

Win resources

Better recycling is current due to rising metal prices worldwide. An improved sorting process therefore prevents batteries from ending up in the wrong place in the chain. By efficiently detecting and sorting batteries earlier in the chain, TEMNOS provides opportunities to recycle more raw materials, such as rare metals.

Burning battery

Batteries are detected less efficiently in current waste streams. This can result in major fires due to battery damage and self-ignition. In recent years, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of waste fires in Europe.

Research has shown that the main reasons for this are heating and the presence of flammable substances. The latter category also includes batteries, which are the cause of 49 out of 53 fires at European companies that recycle electronic devices. These fires sometimes also release dangerous substances.

Battery fires not only play a major role in the recycling industry. In the metal industry, it is the biggest cause of fires. It is also in third place among old paper companies. According to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, this may be due to the low percentage of batteries collected. Only 24 percent of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in the Netherlands are disposed of. The rest ends up between PMD waste, residual waste and old paper, resulting in a possible battery fire.

Collaboration with the waste processing industry

Aside from all the immediate risks of waste fires, reducing the loss of precious metals such as cobalt is reason enough for Team CORE to tackle the problem.

The TEMNOS project is a follow-up to the TITAN project, also by CORE students. TITAN is a shredding machine for converting battery-containing products into a plastic-metal mixture without starting a fire. TITAN still needed salts, an additional pollutant in the process. TEMNOS makes it possible to treat only the hazardous streams and to treat the safe waste streams via existing routes.

Recognition of battery-containing products can take place in different ways. When it comes to phones and tablets, a lot can be fixed right now visual recognition which recognizes whether or not a phone has a removable battery and whether that battery has actually been removed. This application is currently being developed in a pilot project with Huiskes Metaal BV in Waalwijk.

Sorting batteries into more complex currents, such as toothbrushes, music boxes, and other electronic devices, requires more, such as X-ray technology. This will allow you to see the specific location of the battery in the device and remove it automatically.

A unique collaboration

To enable such projects, cooperation between education and industry is crucial. Therefore, the CORE student team is working with EAISI, the AI ​​Institute of Eindhoven University of Technology, to further develop the models. In addition, direct collaboration with companies such as Huiskes and Wecycle is crucial for understanding the market and achieving the greatest possible social impact.

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