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Manchester firm makes AI breakthrough in fight against batteries and vapes in waste stream

Following a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with academics from The University of Manchester, a North West-based AI specialist is celebrating the successful launch of a product which could revolutionise the waste and recycling industry.

Lion Vision has developed a system that combines advanced vision systems with innovative machine-learning techniques to detect, visualise and extract lithium-ion batteries and other hazardous items from the waste stream.

The technology has been proven to reduce the existential threat of lithium-ion batteries and the environmental impact they pose within society and waste streams globally.

The team of entrepreneurs behind Lion Vision successfully applied to the KTP project with The University of Manchester, run by Innovate UK and were given a grant of more than £125,000 to assist in their quest to deliver a battery detection system. They partnered with Professor Hujun Yin, Professor of Artificial Intelligence, in the School of Engineering at The University of Manchester to bring their concept to life.

As waste passes underneath it, the Lion Vision system can analyse more than half a million images in a 24-hour window and detect more than 600 cylinder batteries per hour. While the system is currently focused on detecting cylinder batteries, it can be programmed to detect more than 40 battery subtypes and other hazardous objects such as vapes.

Lion Vision’s detection system is now in place at a range of sites across the UK, most notably at SWEEEP in Kent which processes 100 tons of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) per day. Typically, amongst this waste, the Lion Vision system is detecting more than 4500-cylinder batteries daily.

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.”

Jonathan Bowl, commercial director at Lion Vision, added: “It is undeniable that lithium-ion batteries are useful sources of energy. However, it is also indisputable that batteries, and items that use them like vapes, are the cause of much harm to the natural and built environment and are a massive problem for waste and recycling centres across the UK.

“It almost feels like a daily event to read of a fire caused by a lithium-ion battery, which will only get worse with the increased use of batteries. To address this issue, we are determined to take this Lion Vision technology as widely as possible to arm the waste and recycling industry in the battle against harmful discarded waste to keep their sites and employees safe.”

Research from Material Focus, the not-for-profit organisation funded by the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), found that ‘batteries that have not been removed from unwanted electricals cause more than 700 fires annually in refuse collection vehicles and at household waste recycling centres.’ Batteries are also thought to cause an estimated 48% of all waste fires in the UK each year, with the cost to the UK thought to be in the region of £158 million annually.

The new and unique technology from Lion Vision will help to eliminate this threat. It uses real-time analytics that provide data on where the flammable batteries are and how they should be removed.

Lion Vision is a team of committed entrepreneurial innovators with more than 30 years of experience within the recycling sector. They have extensive knowledge in early warning fire prevention through their sister company Helios Fire Systems, which was established in 2009.

HFS is the largest supplier of early warning fire detection systems in the UK. This alliance has driven Lion Vision to develop cutting-edge software and systems for thermal runways.

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