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Recycling solution wins €10,000 AKL laser innovation award

19 Apr 2024

Laser-sorting of scrap metal by cleansort recognized, alongside novel battery welding, and materials processing approaches.

The winner of the €10,000 ($10,700) Innovation Award Laser Technology 2024 is Edwin Büchter, co-founder, mentor and managing director of cleansort GmbH, Rösrath, Germany. The award was presented by the associations Arbeitskreis Lasertechnik (Laser Technology Working Group) and the European Laser Institute on April 17th, in the Coronation Hall of Aachen’s Town Hall.

Büchter and his team took the first place in the open competition with the firm’s innovation, which is called “Laser-based sorting system for resource-saving recycling of recyclable materials”. The 10-member international jury selected three finalists from the numerous applications received. Around 350 guests attended the award ceremony.

In his speech, Dr. Peter Leibinger, Chairman of Leibinger SE, focused on the “fascination and limitless possibilities of laser technology”, but above all on the innovative strength of German photonics research and industry.

The Innovation Award Laser Technology is presented every two years to laser manufacturers, users, and researchers, who have successfully taken a laser technology innovation from research to industrial implementation. The award is presented by the Arbeitskreis Lasertechnik AKL, a network of around 200 laser experts, and the European Laser Institute (ELI).

Winners and projects

  • 1st place: ”Laser-based sorting systems for resource-saving recycling of recyclable materials”. Team: cleansort and Clean-Lasersysteme, Herzogenrath, Germany.

    The theme of the 2024 award-winning project is the efficient cleaning, analysis and sorting of surface-contaminated metal scrap in a single step. The combination of laser ablation and laser spectroscopy allows the alloy content to be determined quickly and precisely.

    Intelligent software enables modular cascading of the technology for a wide range of industrial applications. With a success rate of over 93% and a process that runs in just six milliseconds, the method not only saves resources but is also extremely economical.

    The Cleansort process increases resource efficiency and reduces material and energy costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Aluminum in particular offers a high savings potential. Compared to primary production, around 95% energy can be saved. A single Cleansort unit can save up to 291,000 MWh of electrical energy and over 126,000 tons of CO2 per year.

  • 2nd place: ”Holistic approach to laser beam welding for cell contacting of battery modules with the highest quality”. Team: Audi, Neckarsulm, and Precitec, Gaggenau, both Germany.

    The project is currently being used in prototype production at Audi and is on its step into serial production. The automotive industry is responding to global warming by switching from combustion engines to electrically powered vehicles. A key challenge here is quality assurance in battery production.

    Audi has developed an innovative solution with the integrated laser remote welding process. The process not only ensures the electrical conductivity of every weld seam, but also enables emission-free production and thus supports the environmental goals of AUDI AG and the VW Group, which are aiming for CO2-neutral production by 2035.

  • 3rd place: “CANUNDA – Upscaling laser processing with beam-shaping”. Team: Cailabs, Rennes, France.

    The nominated project is the commercialization of Multi-Plane Light Conversion (MPLC) for high-performance laser material processing. This unique beam shaping technology was developed at the Laboratoire Kastler Brossel in Paris, France, for use in telecommunications and optical space-to-earth communication.

    Since 2018, MPLC has been successfully used in laser material processing under the name CANUNDA. The technology modifies the intensity distribution of the processing laser in order to achieve higher process speeds and improved quality in many laser processes. This innovation addresses specific challenges such as porosity and spatter when welding copper and aluminum, materials that are particularly important for electromobility.

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© 2024 SPIE Europe
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