Nov 12, 2022Liked by B.F. Randall ⚛ ⛏ ⚡

I think the important thing to remember with all of this is that recycling is only economically and thermodynamically viable when primary energy is cheap.

With cheap electricity and heat, we would recycle EVERYTHING. When electricity and heat get expensive, recycling costs more than it outputs.

Fossil energy is just not cheap enough- we need to reduce the cost of primary energy by 10-100x, so that means nuclear...

Expand full comment

You can always recycle, but what solar cheerleaders call recycling is just grinding up solar panels and adding them to concrete or asphalt. Undoubtedly you can do the same with Li-ion batteries. A big humongous grinder takes batteries by the tons, mixes with sand, and out comes feedstock for concrete or asphalt. Recycled. As Rationalista states with cheap, plentiful energy you can do much better than that. You just dump the batteries into liquid nitrogen, freeze them rock solid, then pulverize them into a fine powder, send that powder to flotation where it is separated into various basic materials, like silicon dioxide, carbon, aluminum, copper.

You can also do something similar in a plasma furnace just blast the stuff to molecules. No way it is economical now with current material prices, but it does keep landfills less full. But the point is if you have plentiful energy you can recycle everything, at least to basic elements, for those who claim industrial civilization will run out of copper, nickel, cobalt, rare earths, etc. The only critical resource is energy, and with fission or fusion we have at least a 100Myrs supply.

Expand full comment

With super cheap electricity we could electrolytically separate all of the components we want!

Turning solar panels into cement is hilarious. Taking a super high tolerance and high value added product and adding huge amounts of high grade heat energy to turn it into something that costs a few bucks a ton is the exact opposite of “upcycling.” It does demonstrate the real value of solar though...

Expand full comment