Technology

Manchester AI firm develops lithium-ion battery detection system

Lion Vision's new technology aims to reduce fire risks and environmental impact caused by discarded batteries in waste streams.

Lion AI lithium-ion battery detection screen image
Lion Vision, a Manchester-based artificial intelligence company, has launched a new system designed to detect and extract lithium-ion batteries and other hazardous items from waste streams. The technology, developed in partnership with The University of Manchester and supported by a £125,000 grant from Innovate UK, aims to address the growing problem of fires caused by discarded batteries.

The Lion Vision system uses computer vision systems and machine learning techniques to analyse waste on a conveyor belt, detecting more than 600 cylinder batteries per hour. While currently focused on cylinder batteries, the system can be programmed to detect over 40 battery subtypes and other hazardous objects such as vapes.

The technology has already been implemented at several sites across the UK, including SWEEEP in Kent, which processes 100 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) per day. At this facility, the Lion Vision system detects approximately 4,500 cylinder batteries daily.

Cylinder batteries, particularly lithium-ion batteries, pose a significant fire risk in waste processing sytems due to their high energy density and potential for thermal runaway. When damaged, overheated, or exposed to other hazardous conditions, these batteries can ignite and cause fires that are difficult to control and extinguish.

Richard Hewitson, Chief Executive Officer at Lion Vision, commented: "We spotted this existential issue early and set about finding a solution. Working with Innovate UK and partnering with The University of Manchester was a logical approach and helped enormously in expediting our development of an AI detection solution to address one of society's toughest challenges.  Seeing the product proving itself in the market is a very proud moment for us all and justifies the many years of hard work to get to this point."

According to research from Material Focus, ‘batteries that have not been removed from unwanted electricals cause more than 700 fires annually in refuse collection vehicles (RCVs) and at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs)’. Batteries are estimated to be the cause of 48 per cent of all waste fires in the UK each year, with an estimated annual cost of around £158 million.

Lion Vision's technology aims to reduce this issue by providing real-time analytics on the location of flammable batteries and how they should be removed. The company, which has more than 30 years of experience in the recycling sector through its sister company Helios Fire Systems, has said it is committed to developing innovative software and systems for thermal runways.

Professor Hujun Yin from the School of Engineering at The University of Manchester, who collaborated with Lion Vision on the project, added: "My work in AI and vision systems has often given me insight into challenges that society faces, and this project was no exception. While policy change and progress should be pursued, we cannot underestimate the environmental damage is being caused by lithium-ion batteries. It is our responsibility to find engineering solutions to these existing problems. I have no doubt that the system created by the partnership and the team at Lion Vision will have a significant impact on the waste industry."
 

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