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US scientists unveil proof-of-principle lithium-ion battery recycling technique

Wed, 11/18/2020 - 14:06 -- paul Crompton

Scientists at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in the US have demonstrated a proof-of-principle electrochemical process for recycling lithium-ion batteries. 

The room temperature process uses electricity, instead of heat, to power the reactions that leach cobalt, lithium, manganese and other materials from shredded lithium-ion batteries. 

The team reported more than 96% efficiency in terms of extracting cobalt, lithium, manganese and nickel, which exit the process in a single output stream. In contrast, copper deposits on the cathode simplify the downstream separation process.

The results of the research, funded by the Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute, were published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

The material was supplied by battery recycling and management firm Retriev Technologies of Ohio, US, which also participated in the research alongside Belgium chemicals company Solvay.

Future plans include developing an electrochemical procedure to separate the leach process output into cobalt, lithium, manganese and nickel. 

The team is also exploring reuse for graphite that is left over and can potentially be recycled.

Both the leaching and separation processes then need to be scaled up to a size that is useful in an industrial setting, which will include ‘tweaking’ parameters to improve performance and efficiency. 

In addition to project partner Retriev, INL scientists are interested in working with commercial partners on these next steps.

Image: INL scientists research methods to extract valuable metals from lithium batteries.

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