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Machine uses artificial intelligence to sort dead batteries

By

December 19, 2012

The Optisort battery-sorting machine

The Optisort battery-sorting machine

Image Gallery (2 images)

While it’s definitely important to keep the heavy metals in discarded batteries out of the environment, the sorting of all of the different types of batteries that arrive at a recycling depot could no doubt get extremely tedious. It’s the type of job that often goes to a machine. Well, such a machine has been invented. Called the Optisort, it can recognize about 2,000 types of batteries, and is currently being used to sort one third of those recycled in the UK.

The machine was first conceived by Claes Strannegård, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher with Sweden’s University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology.  He got the idea when he was sorting his own garbage, and proceeded to get in touch with Swedish recycling company Renova. In a collaboration between the company and the universities, the system was created.

Claes Strannegård using the Optisort
Claes Strannegård using the Optisort

Batteries are fed into the Optisort on a conveyor belt, where each one is photographed by the machine’s camera. Each image is then compared to a database of existing shots of different types of batteries, until a match is made. Based on the battery’s chemical content, a jet of compressed air is then used to direct it into a designated bin.

Up to ten batteries can be processed per second. Because the machine’s AI system allows it to learn from what it “sees,” it can even recognize damaged or dirty batteries.

Although the system is designed primarily with the environment in mind, it also makes allowances for commerce. It keeps a record of the composition, brand and model of each battery received, so that the raw materials can be sold by the recycler.

Optisort machines are now being produced by the Gothenburg-based Optisort company. One is currently in use at Renova, while another is handling approximately 33 percent of the UK’s recycled batteries at England’s G&P Batteries.

More information is available in the video below.

Source: University of Gothenburg

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
3 Comments

Other uses for:

sorting recyclables

removing biowaste from hospitals

ID chem waste.

removing toxic wastes.

Stephen N Russell
20th December, 2012 @ 06:00 pm PST

This kind of technology has been used for some time by the food industry and in material handling. They, however, benefit from a consistent feed stream, whereas batteries may be mixed in garbage. Get them isolated and we are off to the races! Excellent use of technology.

Bruce H. Anderson
21st December, 2012 @ 07:33 am PST

If this could be combined with technology to suck the last of the power out of the batteries and store it for later use...

There are circuits that can boost the voltage from nearly dead batteries. One it called joule thief.

Gregg Eshelman
30th September, 2013 @ 04:58 pm PDT
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