The increasing use of lithium-ion batteries, particularly in vehicles, has outmatched the technology to recycle them. Now, scientists at the ReCell Center– the nations very first innovative battery recycling research study and advancement center, headquartered at the Department of Energys (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory– have actually made a critical discovery that eliminates one of the most significant difficulties standing in the way of making recycling lithium-ion batteries financially practical.
The recycling procedures being utilized today allow the healing of metals in types that are of low worth to battery producers. Due to the fact that the cathode materials of EV batteries differ depending on the production and the car manufacturer year, a recycler needs to take a mix of lithium metal oxides– lithium cobalt oxide, lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide, lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide, lithium iron phosphate, and so on– and separate out each in order for those materials to be recycled. Thats true of lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC111) and lithium manganese oxide (LMO), 2 common EV battery cathode materials that the ReCell team used in its experiments.
” If the battery industry is going to purchase recycled cathode product to reuse in new batteries, they are not going to sacrifice pureness.”– Jessica Durham, materials scientist at Argonne and co-author of the study
Scientists at Michigan Technological University (MTU), part of the ReCell group, have established an ingenious process for separating the valuable products that comprise the cathode, a batterys favorably charged electrode.
Researchers in the Materials Engineering Research Facility at Argonne are scaling up MTUs innovative separation procedure, leading the way for the large-scale recycling of EV batteries. Since the cathode materials of EV batteries vary depending upon the automaker and the production year, a recycler should take a mix of lithium metal oxides– lithium cobalt oxide, lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide, lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide, lithium iron phosphate, etc– and different out each in order for those materials to be reused. That when difficult job suddenly seems practical.
Direct recycling and reusing battery cathode products closes the loop. Credit: ReCell
In a brand-new paper released in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Energy Technology, MTU and ReCell researchers detail their discovery: a method of separating individual cathode materials using a brand-new twist on an old procedure called froth flotation.
Thats true of lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC111) and lithium manganese oxide (LMO), 2 common EV battery cathode products that the ReCell group used in its experiments. What the researchers found was that separation can be attained by making one of the cathode products, NMC111, float through the introduction of a chemical that makes the target material ward off water.
As soon as the cathode products were separated, the researchers determined through screening that the procedure had a negligible influence on the electrochemical performance of the materials. Both also had high purity levels (95 percent or above).
” Thats very important,” says Jessica Durham, a products scientist at Argonne and co-author of the study, “because if the battery industry is going to purchase recycled cathode product to reuse in new batteries, they are not going to sacrifice pureness.”
The research study ties into the ReCell Centers mission to advance less energy-intensive processing methods and capture valuable products for direct recycling– the healing, regeneration and reuse of battery parts directly without breaking down the chemical structure. The center is a partnership between Argonne, DOEs National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Michigan Technological University, the University of California at San Diego and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
ReCells discovery promises to have comprehensive implications, such as decreasing the expense of recycling lithium-ion batteries; stimulating the development of a lucrative recycling market for end-of-life lithium-ion batteries; driving down the expense of EVs for both customers and manufacturers; enabling the United States to contend in the global battery recycling market; strengthening U.S. energy independence by increasing the usage of domestic sources of recycled battery materials; and minimizing U.S. reliance on foreign sources of materials.
For now, the ReCell Center team is laser focused on producing, step by step, a total recycling process for lithium-ion batteries that is financially practical. Only then will it be widely adopted.
” Whatever technique is used to do this recycling, the recycler has to have the ability to make money from it,” Durham says. “Were putting the actions together knowing that, in the end, the overall process is going to have to pay.”
Recommendation: “Direct Recycling of Blended Cathode Materials by Froth Flotation” by Tinu-Ololade Folayan, Albert L. Lipson, Jessica L. Durham, Haruka Pinegar, Donghao Liu and Lei Pan, 29 July 2021, Energy Technology.DOI: 10.1002/ ente.202100468.
Other study co-authors at Argonne include Albert Lipson, primary products scientist and Haruka Pinegar, postdoctoral researcher.
This research study and the ReCell Center are funded by DOEs Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicle Technologies Office.
EEREs mission is to speed up the research study, advancement, demonstration, and deployment of solutions and innovations to equitably shift America to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050, and ensure the tidy energy economy advantages all Americans, developing excellent paying jobs for the American individuals– specifically employees and communities affected by the energy transition and those traditionally underserved by the energy system and overburdened by pollution.
Direct recycling is the least energy-intensive method of recycling a lithium-ion battery. Credit: ReCell
How do we make battery recycling expense efficient? Researchers at the ReCell Center have taken another action towards that objective.
Lithium-ion batteries are the engines of our technological present and future. They power portable electronic devices, such as smart devices and laptops and electric vehicles (EVs), which are growing in appeal. However the increasing use of lithium-ion batteries, especially in cars, has outmatched the innovation to recycle them. Now, researchers at the ReCell Center– the countrys first advanced battery recycling research and advancement center, headquartered at the Department of Energys (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory– have made an essential discovery that eliminates one of the greatest hurdles standing in the way of making recycling lithium-ion batteries economically practical.
The recycling procedures being used today enable the healing of metals in types that are of low value to battery producers. A massive problem looms on the horizon: In less than a decade, researchers forecast that two million tons of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries from EVs will be retired each year. The number of end-of-life EV batteries is currently low, however its about to rise considerably as older design cars reach completion of their helpful life– and the present recycling facilities is not ready for the influx.