Groundbreaking research makes battery recycling more economical


Newswise – How do we make the most of recycling batteries? Scientists at the ReCell Center have taken another step towards this goal.

Lithium-ion batteries are the engines of our technological present and future. They power portable electronic devices, such as smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles (EVs), which are growing in popularity. But the increasing use of lithium-ion batteries, especially in automobiles, has overtaken technology to recycle them. Today, scientists at the ReCell Center, the country’s first advanced research and development center on battery recycling, headquartered at the Department of Energy (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory – have made a crucial discovery that removes one of the biggest barriers to the economic viability of recycling lithium-ion batteries.

Recycling processes used today allow metals to be recovered in forms of low value for battery manufacturers. A huge problem looms on the horizon: In less than a decade, researchers predict that two million tonnes of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles will be phased out each year. The end of life number VE Batteries are currently low, but they are set to increase dramatically as older vehicle models reach the end of their useful life – and the current recycling infrastructure is not ready for the influx. .

If the battery industry is going to buy recycled cathode materials for reuse in new batteries, it will not sacrifice purity. – Jessica Durham, materials scientist at Argonne and co-author of the study

Researchers from Michigan University of Technology (UMT), a member of the ReCell team, have developed an innovative process to separate the precious materials that make up the cathode, the positively charged electrode of a battery.

Scientists at the Argonne Materials Engineering Research Center step up UMTinnovative separation process, paving the way for large-scale recycling of VE Battery. Because the cathode materials of VE batteries vary by car maker and year of production, a recycler should take a mixture of lithium metal oxides – lithium cobalt oxide, lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide, lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide, iron phosphate lithium, etc. so that these materials can be reused. This once impossible task suddenly seems achievable.

In a new article published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Energy Technology, UMT and ReCell researchers detail their discovery: a method of separating individual cathode materials using a new version of an old process called foam flotation.

Used for many years by the mining industry to separate and purify ores, foam flotation separates materials in a flotation tank depending on whether they repel water and float, or absorb water and sink. . Usually, cathode materials flow, which makes them difficult to separate from each other. This is the case of lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC111) and lithium manganese oxide (LMO), two towns VE battery cathode materials that the ReCell team used in their experiments. What the researchers found is that the separation can be achieved by fabricating one of the cathode materials, NMC111, float via the introduction of a chemical that makes the target material repel water.

After the cathode materials were separated, the researchers determined through tests that the process had negligible impact on the electrochemical performance of the materials. Both also had high purity levels (95 percent or more).

This is very important, ”says Jessica Durham, materials scientist at Argonne and co-author of the study,because if the battery industry is going to buy recycled cathode material for reuse in new batteries, it will not sacrifice purity. “

The research is linked to the ReCell Center’s mission to advance more energy-efficient processing methods and capture valuable materials for direct recycling – the recovery, regeneration and reuse of battery components directly without breaking down the chemical structure. The center is a collaboration between Argonne, DOENational Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Michigan Technological University, University of California at San Diego and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

ReCell’s discovery promises to have far-reaching implications, such as reducing the cost of recycling lithium-ion batteries; stimulate the growth of a profitable market for recycling end-of-life lithium-ion batteries; reduce the cost of electric vehicles for producers and consumers; enable the United States to compete in the global battery recycling industry; strengthen the energy independence of the United States by increasing the use of domestic sources of recycled battery materials; and reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign sources of materials.

But for now, the ReCell Center team is focused on creating, step by step, a comprehensive recycling process for lithium-ion batteries that is economically viable. Only then will it be widely adopted.

Whatever method is used to do this recycling, the recycler must be able to benefit from it, ”explains Durham.We put the steps together knowing that at the end of the day, the whole process will have to be profitable.

Other co-authors of the study at Argonne include Albert Lipson, senior materials scientist and Haruka Pinegar, postdoctoral researcher.

This research and the ReCell Center are funded by DOEOffice of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energies, Office of Vehicle Technologies.

EEREThe mission of is to accelerate the research, development, demonstration and deployment of technologies and solutions to make America’s just transition to zero net greenhouse gas emissions throughout the economy. from here at the latest 2050, and ensure that the clean energy economy benefits all Americans, creating well-paying jobs for the American people, especially workers and communities affected by the energy transition and those historically underserved by the energy system and overloaded by pollution.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to urgent national problems in science and technology. The country’s leading national laboratory, Argonne conducts cutting-edge fundamental and applied scientific research in virtually all scientific disciplines. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state, and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance U.S. scientific leadership, and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees over 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, SARL for the Office of Science of the United States Department of Energy.

The Office of Science of the United States Department of Energy is the largest proponent of basic physical science research in the United States and strives to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https: // ener gy .gov / s c ience.

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