Poor Little Lead

Lead is the worst performer in terms of price on the LME this year despite conditions that would suggest a truly bull market, such as a widening deficit and bad production growth prospects. But apparently, everyone hates not just Chris but also lead because of its sad, toxic past and its role in ICE batteries. The logic seems to be as EVs rise, ICEs, complete with their batteries, will fall and so will lead demand. But I think ICEs won't fall so quickly or so thoroughly anytime soon, so it's kind of unfair on lead.

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1 hour ago, Marina Schwarz said:

The logic seems to be as EVs rise, ICEs, complete with their batteries, will fall and so will lead demand. But I think ICEs won't fall so quickly or so thoroughly anytime soon, so it's kind of unfair on lead.

Full EVs are part of the Pb battery story.  The other part is that Pb batteries are heavy, die within a few years even when not used, and can't do what Li or NiMh can do to save fuel. 

Heavy is self-explanatory.  As vehicle manufacturers look to shave weight, cheaper Li batteries will become attractive. 

The Pb battery's short life is due to chemistry: the battery is always partially discharged, the discharged lead forms lead-sulfate that floats around in the acid, and floating lead-sulfate slowly crystallizes.  Once it crystallizes, it can't be converted back into metallic lead.  Put simply, the Pb starter battery in every vehicle turns into a brick after 3-7 years.  There is no blanket solution for this. 

Adding insult to injury, Pb batteries die quickly from charge-recharge cycles. If you want to improve vehicle efficiency through start-stop operation, Pb gets expensive.  Hybridization is right out.  Even extremely limited options, such as running electrical loads from the battery to temporarily boost power, are expensive with Pb batteries. 

So even assuming consumer EVs don't take market share, odds are Pb batteries will suffer a rapid decline. 

 

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But there are perhaps some hope for lead use in new products like the promising perovskite solar cells... Perovskite solar cells could be as efficient as current solar cells but much cheaper and could be easily created by simply applying a sort of paint on a glass.

https://www.printedelectronicsworld.com/articles/15554/perovskite-solar-cells-leap-towards-commercialization

https://www.printedelectronicsworld.com/articles/15565/painting-solar-cells-provides-new-path-to-market

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perovskite_solar_cell

 

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8 hours ago, Guillaume Albasini said:

But there are perhaps some hope for lead use in new products like the promising perovskite solar cells... Perovskite solar cells could be as efficient as current solar cells but much cheaper and could be easily created by simply applying a sort of paint on a glass.

https://www.printedelectronicsworld.com/articles/15554/perovskite-solar-cells-leap-towards-commercialization

https://www.printedelectronicsworld.com/articles/15565/painting-solar-cells-provides-new-path-to-market

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perovskite_solar_cell

 

Do they have a plan to recycle these?  You can't throw them in landfills because of the lead, and they're not as easily reprocessed as a Pb battery's simple chemistry. 

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16 hours ago, mthebold said:

Do they have a plan to recycle these?  You can't throw them in landfills because of the lead, and they're not as easily reprocessed as a Pb battery's simple chemistry. 

In fact this is a huge concern. The significant lead content of metal halide perovskites is imposing a great strain on their public perception and acceptance. Therefore the research is focusing on finding lead-free perovskites.

In fact, the concentration of lead in the currently working perovskite solar cells (PSC) falls short of the limit adopted in all the countries that regulate the use of heavy metals in electronics. For example, the European Union adheres to the “Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment,” RoHS1 in 2003 and the subsequent RoHS2 in 2011, which are also known as the “lead-free directives.” The RoHS takes into account the more recent understanding of long-term risks associated with continuous exposure to low levels of toxic heavy metals. Specifically, it restricts to 0.1% in weight the maximum concentration of lead in each homogeneous material contained in any electronic devices, i.e., the perovskite within a PSC. Unfortunately, all the halide perovskites that have been so far demonstrated as effective photovoltaic materials contain more than 10% lead in weight.

But it's not easy to find a substitute to lead., most attempt having shown critical stability issues.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2542435117300806

Solving the stability and toxicity issue is the key to develop this new generation of solar cells. But some promising results are emerging...

https://phys.org/news/2018-06-lead-free-efficient-perovskite-photovoltaic-cells.html

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsenergylett.8b00871

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