September 28, 2023 | David F. Coppedge

Christian Chemist Saves the Climate in a Flash

Dr James Tour’s lab has done it again:
solved a major environmental crisis in seconds



— A blinding flash of light can solve a major problem: recycling a lithium ion battery —

Last year (31 May 2022), we reported on a phenomenal discovery at the lab of Dr James Tour at Rice University: the ability to convert almost any carbon source (coal, plastic, auto parts) into useful graphene: a desirable, strong material with a multitude of applications. Now, the technique of “flash joule heating” is showing the ability to recycle lithium ion batteries.

Lithium ion batteries have been difficult and expensive to recycle. But without recycling, they pose an environmental risk in landfills. Consumers know about the AA and AAA batteries that power their flashlights and electronic gadgets, but often toss the spent batteries or turn them in to recycling centers, hoping someone else will make the materials useful again. Electric vehicles, considered essential by climate alarmists, depend on lithium batteries and rare earth minerals. The world is facing a glut of these batteries with no good way to recapture the materials. A discovery announced Sept 27 in Science Advances may change that.

It’s easier to get valuable metals from battery waste if you ‘flash’ it (Rice University Media Relations, 27 Sept 2023). This press release explains the problem and the solution.

Demand for valuable metals needed in batteries is poised to grow over the coming decades in step with the growth of clean energy technologies, and the best place to source them may be by recycling spent batteries.

A battery recycling process developed by Rice University scientists can remove the inert layer on battery metals and lower their oxidation state, making them soluble in low-concentration acid. Using its signature Joule-heating technique to bring the combined cathode and anode waste to temperatures above 2100 degrees Kelvin in seconds, the lab of Rice chemist James Tour achieved a metal recovery yield exceeding 98% from various types of mixed battery waste.

Recycling occurs in a flash of light and heat.

Two additional benefits of this process are noted: it’s 100 times faster than existing technologies (20 minutes instead of 24 hours), and it significantly reduces “secondary waste streams from the contaminated, acidic leaching solutions.” The dilute HCl allows for easy recovery of nickel, cobalt and manganese used in the batteries.

Existing processes yield a “black mass” of goo from the anode and cathode. Flash heating of the goo makes quick work of recycling:

“We developed a high-yield, low-cost method of reclaiming metals directly from ‘black mass’ ⎯ the combined cathode and anode waste the industry traditionally tries to recycle ⎯ that significantly reduces the environmental footprint of spent battery processing,” said Jinhang Chen, a Rice chemistry graduate student and co-lead author on a study published in Science Advances.

Battery metal recycling by flash Joule heating (Chen, Tour et al., Science Advances, 27 Sept 2023). This is the formal paper explaining the technique.

The staggering accumulation of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) and the growing scarcity of battery metal sources have triggered an urgent call for an effective recycling strategy. However, it is challenging to reclaim these metals with both high efficiency and low environmental footprint. We use here a pulsed dc flash Joule heating (FJH) strategy that heats the black mass, the combined anode and cathode, to >2100 kelvin within seconds, leading to ~1000-fold increase in subsequent leaching kinetics. There are high recovery yields of all the battery metals, regardless of their chemistries, using even diluted acids like 0.01 M HCl, thereby lessening the secondary waste stream. The ultrafast high temperature achieves thermal decomposition of the passivated solid electrolyte interphase and valence state reduction of the hard-to-dissolve metal compounds while mitigating diffusional loss of volatile metals. Life cycle analysis versus present recycling methods shows that FJH significantly reduces the environmental footprint of spent LIB processing while turning it into an economically attractive process.

Environmentalists cannot help but appreciate this faster, cleaner method of recovering metals. And climate scientists, proposing a move from fossil fuels to electric vehicles, have an answer to one objection: that electric batteries cannot be recycled.

Dr James Tour has achieved notoriety for more than this discovery. As a world-renowned structural chemist and leader of the design of molecular motors, he has also made it his personal challenge to expose the weaknesses of origin-of-life (OOL) research. His popular YouTube channel, mixing technical details with humor, shows why the claims by evolutionists of getting closer to explaining chemical evolution are unscientific. His latest challenge was posted a month ago. He is giving the leading OOL researchers 60 days to solve any one of four relatively easy steps required for life, promising he will shut up and take down his videos if they succeed.

Dr James Tour

An unashamed Christian, Dr Tour is like Samson pushing on the pillars of the idol temple – only this Samson has his eyes intact and a reputation that is unblemished. No one can point to character flaws, lack of expertise, or weakness in his science. So far the OOL crowd has tried to ignore him. In a recent video debate, “professor” Dave Farina, a Darwin hack, tried using ridicule against him. That, however, backfired in the eyes of many who were repulsed by Farina’s behavior and language against a reputable scientist.

Now, the clock is ticking. It’s been one month since Dr Tour’s challenge to the leading OOL scientists to answer his questions. If you watch his challenge video, Tour is being extremely generous. He is allowing the most experienced OOL researchers, including Steve Benner, to judge whether they succeed or fail! None of the four experiments Tour wants to see performed should be considered that difficult for a chemist to demonstrate, given that they believe this is how life evolved. Moreover, they can claim success on any one of these experiments and Dr Tour promises to admit he was wrong and take down all his videos about the subject.

This epic challenge is reminiscent of the bold proposal by Louis Pasteur, who dared any scientist to demonstrate spontaneous generation after he had falsified it with his swan-necked flask experiments. Like Tour, Pasteur had no need to take on the evolutionary establishment because his reputation with vaccination and pasteurization was secure. But truth matters to both men. They don’t want to see lies spread in the media any longer. Interestingly, both scientists had to endure ridicule by the Establishment.

Come November, we should know the results of Dr Tour’s challenge. Read some of the comments on his YouTube video to see that the public is loving it. My prediction is that the OOL crowd will simply ignore the challenge. They have too much of their lives and reputations invested in chemical evolution to let this Samson embarrass them. And I wouldn’t put it past the idOOLaters to try to censor him.* But if the walls cave in after the pillars have been pushed, they will have no escape. Without chemical evolution, Darwinism can’t get off the ground.

*Dr Tour went around academia to state his case directly to the public on YouTube. His discoveries are also making his work attractive to environmentalists and climate scientists. For these reasons, it should be hard for the Darwin Party to censor him. But knowing the intolerance of the Darwinians, they could try anything, including pressuring YouTube to drop his account or Rice U to weaken his influence. (Recall how tenured professor Dean Kenyon was “reassigned” to lesser jobs after coming out against chemical evolution.)  If anything like that happens, be prepared to protest loud and long until Big Science is ashamed.

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