The Power of Recycling - the story of a lithium ion battery


This curriculum-linked STEM-based resource for 9-11 year olds and their teachers tells the story of lithium ion car batteries and the recycling process. Through simple models and activities, the children are introduced to how these batteries work, what they contain and why they should be recycled.


The resource comprises practical activities including:


  • using everyday materials to build a model of a lithium ion cell and battery
  • a challenge to separate a variety of everyday materials modelling real industrial processes
  • an investigation
  • a quiz and games


As the children complete the activities, they keep an ongoing record of what they have achieved in a ‘passport’. Once the passport is completed, they use their skills to build a model battery-powered vehicle.


Each lesson is supported by teacher notes and background information, resource list, pupils’ activity sheets, key STEM vocabulary and suggestions for additional or extension activities. There are PowerPoint presentations and animations to enrich the lessons. The activities are designed to be used individually or as part of an extended project and may be used by STEM ambassadors, science clubs or for home school projects.


Follow the links to view and download the following:


A PDF of the main resource, including lesson plans, teacher support notes, key vocabulary, curriculum links, pupils’ activity passport, quiz and games.

02-Powerpoint – Lithium ion cell animation

03-Powerpoint - Make a lemon battery

04-Video - A research scientist explains why a lithium ion battery should be recycled and sets the separation challenges for the children.

05-06-Powerpoint - A circus of eight separations based on real industrial processes. A challenge to separate a mixture of materials.

07-Powerpoint - A Sticky Problem- Investigating a suitable glue to make battery recycling easier.

10-PowerPoint - Build a battery-powered car.  Presentation shows how to attach a motor, pulley, axles and wheels to a chassis and complete the circuit with batteries to produce motion.


The Applied Materials Group committee have organized a series of webinars to be held this summer with a broad theme of “value from waste” in order to highlight technology areas to our Interest Group members that require applied materials chemistry knowledge. The series will take a closer look at specific challenges that are at the frontier of research in the areas of waste and recycling, with a view to inspiring our network members to move into some of these areas and contribute towards the research challenges that lie ahead for materials sustainability. The committee hope that our knowledge and experience in applied materials chemistry will inspire members to contribute towards solving the shortcomings in existing technologies.

This webinar focuses on value form waste in the construction industry. The webinar will focus on the decline (and continuation of decline) of coal power and the effect of this on recycled concrete production, and discussion into mining for coal ash deposits and the challenges associated with implementing this on a societal scale. Further, movements towards reducing the carbon footprint of concrete will be discussed. Crossover between these two themes will be covered in a panel discussion.

The webinar will be held on 23 October 2020, 1100-1400. A registration link is here.





On 6th July 2020, the Applied Materials Chemistry Group hosted a webinar on GoToWebinar, focusing on the challenges in the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. The event was attended by around 180 people. The webinar was structured such that three experts in the field gave talks covering specific challenges within the field, and laid out challenges for applied materials chemists to uptake and participate within. The event culminated in an audience-lead panel discussion, whereby the audience input questions into the questions function on GoToWebinar, which were then put to the panel and answered by one or more of the experts.




Dr Evi Petavratzi


Evi is a Senior Mineral Commodity Expert at the British Geological Survey (BGS). At BGS, her research is in the field of security of supply and the circular economy, which in recent years has a focus on decarbonisation and resource management. She is interested to identify routes to the sustainable and responsible provision of raw materials, whether from primary or secondary sources.


In her talk, Evi gave an overview of mineralogical challenges that are arising or have arisen as a direct result in the projected increase in LiB use for the EV market. She discussed how Li, Co, C and Ni are key raw materials for securing the future demand for EVs and will also discuss supply chain resilience and the need for recycling to satisfy future demand. Evi’s talk opened the event and was gratefully received by the audience, reflected by a high volume of questions that were directed towards her during the panel discussion.



Dr Linda Gaines


Linda is an Environmental Scientist/Systems Analyst in Argonne National Laboratory’s Energy Systems division, where she examines energy use and the flow of materials and processes in the energy production cycle. She has written a series of handbooks assessing energy and material flows in petroleum refining, organic chemicals, and copper industries that provided background for studies of technical and institutional issues involved in recycling energy-intensive materials. Linda has also examined the costs and impacts on energy use and the environment of production and recycling of advanced-design automobiles, trucks, trains, and batteries. More recently, her research has focused on analyzing process options for recycling of lithium-ion batteries.


In her talk, Linda spoke about ReCell, which is a research centre in America dedicated to the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. She shone a light on the different types of recycling, including pyrometallurgy and direct recycling, and more importantly discussed individual difficulties with the direct recycling processes and what areas require further research. Examples included relithiation of cathodes, electrolyte recovery and pre-processing techniques that require further consideration.



Professor Andrew Abbott


Andy is Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Leicester. His research focusses on material processing and circular economy. He is part of the Faraday Institution ReLiB  project ( developing new methodologies for recycling lithium ion batteries. He is also interested in the topic of design for recycle.


Andy’s talk focused on design for recycle. Within his talk he demonstrated how differences in battery design present challenges in stripping modules and battery packs apart into constituent components from the beginning. Adhesives, glues and other materials to build batteries often require very specific conditions to unravel and this is one preventative factor in battery recycling. His talk focused on aspects such as three phase boundaries, mechanical delamination and wettability of metal oxides and binders as examples of projects to advance design for recycle.



Panel Discussion


This being the first panel discussion held, it was a little bit of an unknown as to how it would work. It was decided to be an audience-lead discussion, whereby the hope was that the audience would post questions through the anonymous questions function, which would then be fielded by Ed. Indeed, this process worked fairly well: multiple questions from a range of participants were asked, and on the whole the quality of questions was reasonably high and were questions that our experts were happy to answer very well. Among the discussion several topics were raised, ranging from transport of battery waste to fire potential of batteries, through to development of artificial resource markets and ethical impacts of battery materials. There were also many technical questions asked by our audience, who were interested in many of the research aspects of direct recycling and designing for recycle. Overall it was felt by all experts that the session proceeded very well.



Summary and Legacy


In sum this was the first webinar of the 2020 series by AMCG. The topic was evidently a topic of interest, evidenced in aprt by the number of participants in attendance on the day. The quality of the speakers was very high as they were all known figures in their field, and they worked together to build a very good picture of the challenges that we are faced as a society as we transfer over to a more electrified society. The audience played a very important and active role in leading the questions and answer session.


Already from the event an application is being prepared to bid for outreach funding for developing a battery recycling teaching materials pack for primary education. Sue Andrews from AMCG is already building a trusted network of partners to feed her ideas through and if successful will build a set of recycling resources to educate young people on this future challenge.




Dr Edward Randviir


Manchester Metropolitan University


AMCG committee member




Electrochemistry Northwest was hosted online through GoToWebinar on Wednesday 1st July 2020. It is traditionally a free informal meeting held by the electrochemistry community in the northwest, coming together to discuss their latest work and ideas in the field of electrochemistry. The event usually has a strong early career and PhD focus, and the 2020 edition was no exception.


The event attracted 93 participants (an increase on the previous year), with attendance remaining reasonably constant throughout the day (see Figure 1) with a slight drop during lunch.



The final programme for Electrochemistry Northwest consisted of two plenary speakers, two early career presenters, three PhD presenters, five flash presentations and three talks from suppliers. The programme is provided in Figure 2.




Plenary 1 - Angel Cuesta, University of Aberdeen


Angel Cuesta told our younger scientists to keep learning the science, but not to forget about the other skills including research management, writing and presenting among many other things.


His work investigates the effect of ion radius on CO2 reduction – ion size is linked to localized pH change at the surface, which dictates CO2 conversion efficiency. He also discussed surface enhanced ATR spectroscopy and its application in monitoring Helmholtz characteristics.



Early Careers


Two early careers provided 15 minute talks on their latest research. Yang Xu (UCL) Provided evidence that crystallinity of MoS2 has an effect on ion intercalation – affects power densities of MoS2 if used as battery electrodes. Yang was recently awarded an EPSRC New Investigator award for his work and was appealing for interest in his postdoc position, which was advertised to the attendees on his behalf. Yagya Regmi (MMU) presented work on designing iridium catalysts with reduced loading – he suggested that Iridium loading on top of a gold or platinum surface can actually enhance the catalytic properties for the OER.



Flash Presentations


Five flash presentations were delivered by our participants. Bobby Crapnell (MMU, on behalf of Marloes Peeters, Newcastle) reported on the heat transfer method for detection of targeted compounds using MIPs. Laura Martinez (Aberdeen) gave a presentation on electrochemical conversion of complex alcohols such as glycerol. Bruna Baggio (Liverpool) discussed x-ray voltammetry on single crystals, while Ian Bennett-Wright (Edinburgh) presented his work on electrochemical gels. Rowan Hanson, a late inclusion, discussed improving the lithium-ion battery.





Three presentations from equipment suppliers were given. Steve Fryatt (Alvatek), Andy Savage (BioLogic) and Joanne Holmes (Metrohm) all presented their latest products and how they can help researchers in the electrochemistry community.



Plenary 2 - Mark Symes, University of Glasgow


Mark told some stories about how things don’t always work out as expected – he begun with a story about how his student thought they had shown oxygen evolution using lead oxide coated electrodes, but actually it turned out to be impurities of Ni in the electrolyte that were anodizing on the electrode and causing oxygen evolution. He then discussed how works on nitrogen reduction and persulfate generation didn’t go as planned, but still resulted in some tangible output.




PhD Researchers


Three PhD researchers gave their presentations in the afternoon to finish the session. Franziska Boβl (Edinburgh) gave a presentation on piezo-electrocatalysis, which is proving to be a potentially contentious field in electrochemistry but requires much investigation and conversation in order to come closer to understanding it. Aranzazu Carmona Orbezo (Manchester), who was a returning presenter to this event after being awarded a prize the previous year, presented her latest work in flow electrodes. She discussed how using non-Newtonian fluids in flow electrodes presented challenges for practical application in desalination, but also presented some potential solutions to desalination problems. Finally, Laurence Savignac (Lancaster) joined the meeting from Canada to discuss her work lithium iron phosphate batteries.



Exit Survey


An exit survey was offered but only three responses were given. Two people were impressed by the event, its communications and the quality f speakers and the handout, while one contributor was less than unimpressed.





The event was cost neutral.





The event was hosted online through GoToWebinar, attracting several researchers and attendees. The event was successful in giving early careers and PhD students a sounding board to disseminate their latest work. It is hoped that in the future a different institution will take the lead in organizing the event, however Ed thinks that AMCG should continue to support this event financially.




Dr Edward Randviir


Manchester Metropolitan University


AMCG committee member


8th July 2020




The Applied Materials Chemistry Group of the RSC funded the 2019 iteration of the Electrochemistry Northwest meeting, hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University. The meeting was traditionally shared between electrochemistry groups within the northwest, with colleagues from Lancaster, Liverpool and Manchester taking turns to host the event. Unfortunately in the past few years the event had fallen by the wayside, which was a shame for the northwest community, especially for the early career researchers and PhD researchers that it hosts.

This year the event was given new life thanks to the Applied Materials Chemistry Group, with some additional funding from the Northwest Analytical Division. The event was held on Thursday, 4th July 2019 in the John Dalton Building at Manchester Metropolitan University. The JDB is home to the university’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and several of the university’s centres for research and knowledge exchange, including the Advanced Materials and Surface Engineering research centre operate from within. The JDB is also home to the Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre and PrintCity, two specialist research centres for the hydrogen economy, additive manufacturing, and digital skills (Industry 4.0).

The event was attended by around 60 delegates from across the northwest, and some from Sheffield too. 18 early career and PhD researchers presented their posters in between two talk sessions: one for early career researchers and the other for PhD researchers.

In the morning session, Hany El-Shinawi from the Corr research group (Sheffield) gave a talk on his research on solid state electrolytes for applications within lithium-ion batteries. The plenary talk, which had to be drafted in last minute to replace another speaker, gave insights into garnet materials and their ability to transport lithium ions but not conduct electrical current, which gives rise to longer cycling lifetimes to circumvent longevity issues for larger batteries.

Following the plenary were three talks from the University of Manchester. First, Balakrishna Ananthoju discussed defect-engineered graphene, much in keeping with UoM’s graphene research, while Conor Byrne gave a talk on in-operando electrochemical XPS, a technique that may revolutionise mechanistic information in electrochemical reactions. The second graphene talk of the day also came from UoM, this time Madhumita Sahoo discussed its use in PEM fuel cells. Finally, Tom Galloway from Liverpool University spoke of single crystal electrochemistry using the SHIN technique.

Lunch was served during the poster session, which was judged by Metrohm and Alvatek, both of whom also provide prizes for the best talks and posters.

The afternoon begun with Professor Craig Banks from Manchester Metropolitan University giving a talk on his journey as an electrochemist, from developing screen-printed electrodes through to the 3D printed electrodes he engineers within his research group today. Craig’s talk provided inspiration to our early careers and PhD researchers alike, and his take home message was quite profound in the discussion when he advised young researchers to “never believe what you read in the literature”. His point of view I’m sure will resonate with some.

Three further talks were delivered in the afternoon: Two from the University of Manchester, and one from Lancaster University to close the day. Aranzazu Carmona Orbezo (UoM) delivered her talk on capacitative deionization, a talk that won her the PhD researcher talk prize presented by Alvatek and also free entry to this year’s national electrochemistry conference in Glasgow. Aranzazu will also be given a talk slot at the national conference.

Another UoM PhD researcher, Pawin Iamprasertkun, then discussed the capacitance of the graphite/electrolyte interface, which made for interesting listening since MMU also have a vested interest in this area of research! Finally, Dhruv Trivedi closed the day with his engaging talk on the electrochemical reduction of CO2 – a field of research that is increasing in its impact and interest and something that could help mitigate climate change in the future.

In summary, the event felt like a major success both in terms of attendance and in terms of the wide range of discussion that took place around the electrochemistry of many different materials that can be applied to our everyday lives. From lithium ion conducting garnets for energy storage, through to 3D printed plastics for electrochemical sensors, electrolysers and batteries. From defect-engineered graphene through to single crystal metals, there was a large array of applied materials chemistry on show at this event, and some of the event feedback showed a positive reflection on the day as a whole.


Edward Randviir


With many thanks to our sponsors:

Applied Materials Chemistry Group

Northwest Analytical Division