LONDON, July 1 – Researchers in the UK and the U.S. have found ways to recycle electric vehicle batteries that could drastically reduce costs and carbon emissions, and provide a stable supply for expected demand growth.
Includes removal methods, including reusing some parts of the battery automotive industry Fighting criticism that EVs start with heavy carbon footprints of mined materials, even if they reduce lifetime waste.
As national governments and regions race to provide supplies for the expected acceleration of EV demand, the discoveries will enable the supply of valuable materials such as cobalt and nickel. They also reduce dependence on China and the difficult jurisdictions of the miners.
“We can’t recycle complex products like batteries like we can recycle other metals. Disintegration, mixing of battery components and pyrometallurgy destroy value, ”said Gavin Harper, a researcher at the Faraday Institute, which is supported by the British government.
Pyrometallurgy involves the extraction of metals using high heat in blast furnaces, which is not economical in the opinion of analysts.
The recycling methods used also rely on splitting batteries into very small pieces called black masses, which are then recycled into metals such as cobalt and nickel.
Switching to a practice called direct recycling, which retains components such as cathode and anode, can dramatically reduce energy waste and production costs.
Researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Birmingham, working on the Faraday Institute’s ReLib project, have found a way to use ultrasonic waves to process cathodes and anodes without crushing, and have applied for a patent.
The technology recovers a cathode powder consisting of an aluminum layer of cobalt, nickel and manganese, to which it is bonded in the manufacture of the battery. The anode powder, which can usually be graphite, is separated from the copper layer.
Andy Abbott, a professor of physical chemistry at the University of Leicester, says the separation using ultrasonic waves results in a 60 percent savings over the cost of virgin material.
Compared to traditional technology based on hydrometallurgy, which uses liquids derived from materials such as sulfuric acid and water, ultrasound technology is said to process 100 times more battery material during this period.
Abbott’s team manually disassembled the batteries to test the process, but ReLib is working on a project to use robots to separate batteries and packages more efficiently.
While it takes time to collect supplies and waste, Abbott said the technology initially expected batteries to be used by battery manufacturers as raw materials and recycled materials are returned to battery production.
Processing is useful
In the United States, a project called ReCell by the Department of Energy is in the final stages of demonstrating a variety of yet promising recycling technologies that can be recycled to convert a battery cathode into a new cathode.
ReCell, led by Jeff Spangenberger, studied a variety of methods, including ultrasound, but focused on thermal and solvent-based methods.
“The U.S. doesn’t produce much cathode domestically, so if we use hydrometallurgy or pyrometallurgy, we have to turn the recycled materials into cathodes and send them to other countries to send back to us,” Spangenberger said.
“To make lithium-ion battery recycling more profitable, without requiring consumers to pay for disposal, and to stimulate growth in the recycling industry, new methods need to be developed that will bring more benefits to recycling enterprises.”
There are challenges to direct processing, including ever-evolving chemistry, Spangenberger said. “ReCell is working on the separation of various cathode chemicals.”
Early electric vehicle batteries typically used a cathode containing equal amounts of nickel, manganese, cobalt, or 1-1-1. In recent years, this has changed as manufacturers seek to reduce costs, and cathode chemistry can be 5-3-2, 6-2-2, or 8-1-1.
The approach in Faraday’s ReLib project is to process the virgin material to obtain the desired ratios of nickel, manganese, and cobalt.