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Recycling facility creates opportunity for UK to generate circular economy for lithium-ion batteries

Wed, 03/17/2021 - 11:32 -- Paul Crompton

Researchers working on the Faraday Institution ReLiB (Recycling and Reuse of Li-ion Batteries) project have completed the installation of lithium-ion battery testing and storage facilities at the University of Birmingham in the UK. 

The facilities will allow scientists and engineers to research and develop safe, economic and environmentally sound ways of recovering large volumes of materials from used batteries. 

The installation will shred larger volumes of material than previously made available to researchers working at laboratory scale in the UK. 

The material will be distributed to institutes involved in the ReLiB project, including UK universities developing methods for recovering materials at volumes more representative of commercial-scale processes.

Institutes include the University of Leicester, which is investigating mechanical and chemical separation techniques; the University of Edinburgh researching the use of bacteria to selectively leach high value metals; and the University of Birmingham (UoB) investigating magnetic separation techniques and direct recycling of anode material.

Scientists at UoB’s Chemistry Department are also researching selective leaching low temperature regeneration and direct recycling of cathode materials as possible recycling methods.

The aims are to help the UK develop a circular economy around raw materials for batteries, ensure the country has sufficient capacity for the recycling batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), and provide UK-based businesses with a competitive advantage.

Dr Paul Anderson, principal investigator of the Faraday Institution’s ReLiB project, said: “In order to develop a circular economy in the UK, and recover the materials required to produce future batteries, it is important to establish a battery recycling industry here.

“Increased battery recycling will satisfy the urgent imperative to reduce the amount of raw materials that need to be sourced to manufacture batteries for future EVs— so making better use of global resources and improving security of materials supply chains.”

The facility will also be used in other Faraday Institution projects to perform destructive tests of EV batteries, under controlled conditions, to better understand how and why batteries fail. It will also inform scientists on how damaged batteries can be safely recycled.

The facility is European Council for Automotive R&D - EUCAR 7 rated, meaning impact, fire, and explosive battery failures can all be studied safely.

There are only a handful of similar test chambers in the UK and their use is in high demand, which previously caused delays to research programmes.

The installation and enclosure of the new battery testing and storage facilities represents an investment of about £590,000 ($817,000)— £515,000 ($816,000) by the Faraday Institution and the rest by the University of Birmingham.

Enquiries regarding the use of the facility by the wider UK research community should be directed to Dr Daniel Reed at the Department of Metallurgy and Materials.

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