Artificial intelligence helps sort used batteries

Dec 19, 2012
Research at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden has resulted in a new type of machine that sorts used batteries by means of artificial intelligence. One machine is now being used in the UK, sorting one-third of the country’s recycled batteries. Credit: Claes Strannegård

Research at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden has resulted in a new type of machine that sorts used batteries by means of artificial intelligence (AI). One machine is now being used in the UK, sorting one-third of the country's recycled batteries.

'I got the idea at home when I was sorting rubbish. I thought it should be possible to do it automatically with artificial intelligence,' says Claes Strannegård, who is an AI researcher at the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology.

Strannegård contacted the publically owned recycling company Renova in Gothenburg, Sweden, who were positive to an R&D project concerning automatic sorting of collected batteries. The collaboration resulted in a machine that uses computerised optical recognition to sort up to ten batteries per second.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The sorting is made possible by the machine's so-called , which can be thought of as an artificial nervous system. Just like a human brain, the neural network must be trained to do what it is supposed to do. In this case, the machine has been trained to recognise about 2,000 different types of batteries by taking pictures of them from all possible angles.

As the batteries are fed into the machine via a conveyor belt, they are 'visually inspected' by the machine via a camera. The neural network identifies the batteries in just a few milliseconds by comparing the picture taken with pictures taken earlier. The network is self-learning and robust, making it possible to recognise batteries even if they are dirty or damaged. Once the batteries have been identified, compressed air separates them into different containers according to chemical content, such as nickel-cadmium or lithium.

'For each single , 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,' says Hans-Eric Melin, CEO of the Gothenburg-based company Optisort, which has developed the machine.

This means that besides the environmental benefits of the machine, there are commercial benefits. Today the collection and sorting companies are actually paying money to get rid of the batteries. But Melin thinks that real-time battery data could spark a new market for battery waste, where large volumes are traded online.

So far, the company has delivered two machines – one to Renova in Gothenburg (where half of all the batteries collected in Sweden are sorted) and one to G&P Batteries in the UK. The interest in Optisort and its machine is rising and Strannegård, who founded the company, is very happy his idea is turning out to work so well in the real world.

'This is sparking further research and development so that we will eventually use to sort all types of waste,' he says.

Explore further: First of four Fukushima reactors cleared of nuclear fuel

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Battery Wrapped in Solar Cells Recharges in the Sun

Mar 02, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Although you can buy solar charging devices for rechargeable batteries, it would be even more convenient if batteries had built-in solar cells. Sitting in sunlight, the battery could then ...

Hewlett-Packard recalling 54K laptop batteries

May 21, 2010

(AP) -- Hewlett-Packard Co. is recalling 54,000 lithium-ion batteries used in HP and Compaq computers after receiving reports of injuries from the batteries overheating and rupturing.

HP recalls nearly 80,000 laptop batteries in China

Jun 02, 2011

China's quality watchdog said Thursday that US computer maker Hewlett-Packard plans to recall about 78,740 laptop batteries in China for some HP and Compaq laptops as they pose a fire hazard.

Toward improving the safety of Lithium-ion batteries

Dec 17, 2007

After recalls and fires involving Lithium-ion batteries, battery manufacturers and scientists have launched an intensive effort to improve the safety of these rechargeable power packs found in dozens of consumer electronics ...

Exxon upgrades lithium car batteries

Nov 29, 2007

U.S. researchers say they've developed a plastic film that will make it easier for automakers to use lithium-ion batteries in electric cars and trucks.

Recommended for you

The state of shale

Dec 19, 2014

University of Pittsburgh researchers have shared their findings from three studies related to shale gas in a recent special issue of the journal Energy Technology, edited by Götz Veser, the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Che ...

Website shines light on renewable energy resources

Dec 18, 2014

A team from the University of Arizona and eight southwestern electric utility companies have built a pioneering web portal that provides insight into renewable energy sources and how they contribute to the ...

Better software cuts computer energy use

Dec 18, 2014

An EU research project is developing tools to help software engineers create energy-efficient code, which could reduce electricity consumption at data centres by up to 50% and improve battery life in smart ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.