Editorial: Pragmatic high-tech

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What we like most about a recent grant awarded to a lab at WPI is that it’s so … Worcester.

For a city where innovation tends to be fueled by equal parts pragmatism and smarts, a million dollars to help researchers improve battery recycling for electric cars fits right in.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute announced last month that a novel process for recovering ingredients from lithium-ion batteries — the kind used in electric and hybrid cars — caught the eye of the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium. The consortium is a collaboration of carmakers FCA US (formerly known as Chrysler), Ford and General Motors, and it selected the WPI team, led by Yan Wang, for a contract worth $1 million to further develop and scale up the procedure.

The process invented at WPI is a practical success because it can work on lithium-ion batteries made by different manufacturers using various cathode chemistries. Basically, spent lithium-ion batteries are broken down to produce a powder, and the powder can then be used to produce new cathode materials for new batteries for these fuel-efficient cars of the future.

Voilà. Pragmatic and brilliant — and good for the environment to boot.

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