Storey County battery refinery almost ready to go

Published: Oct. 3, 2016 at 2:45 PM PDT
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A company in Storey County may have found a way to revolutionize the battery recycling industry. It's tapping in to the $65 billion-a-year market, with a green alternative.

It won't be complete until mid-November 2016 or so, but battery producers across the nation are watching this factory closely.

Chief Commercial Officer Steve Cotton says, "Our recycling technology is going to change the way the batteries are made, the way the batteries are distributed and collected, and ultimately how that who ecosystem of recycling works."

We're not talking double-A's, but instead, lead acid batteries.

The type that's under your hood is most recycled product in the world.

"There are really four basic ingredients," Cotton says. "Plastics, hard metals, lead compounds and water with sulfuric acid in it."

Currently, this is how those batteries are recycled. The lead cores are heated to 3,000 degrees in a process called smelting. It's messy and one of the biggest causes of air pollution.

"We think aqua refining solves that last remaining problem to make it truly one of the worlds best stories of reduce, reuse and recycle," says Cotton.

Aqua Metals has a new way of recycling batteries. They're torn apart. Plastics are recycled and acid saved, hard metals melted into a block. And the lead compounds from those soft metals go through the Aqua Metals process.

Cotton says, "it is amazing to watch clear liquid turn into lead, metal, right in front of your eyes."

it is a trade secret, so we won't show you how it is done, but the metals are dissolved in electrolytes. When electricity is added, you get 99.99% pure lead.

"We believe that we will be manufacturing the highest that the world has ever seen ."

Doing that with a fraction of the environmental impact of smelting has two of the biggest battery recyclers in the world knocking on Aqua Metal's door.