Italian battery recycling company Spirit has developed a recovery process to obtain active cathode powder (black mass) from end-of-life LiFePO4 (LFP) lithium-ion cells.
The technology, developed at the company’s Chiampo plant in collaboration with an Italian university, produces recycled powder for use in new cells.
The company told BEST that initial tests, using 2032-format cells produced using recycled powder, showed a lifecycle the same as that obtained from the original compound and had an 80% charge capacity compared to cells made from virgin material.
The material remains the same so safety is maintained.
A similar development is in progress to obtain natural flake graphite present in the anode of the cell.
Within the next three months, Spirit intends to start producing new cathodic material and valorise it with the production of cylindrical 18650-format lithium-ion cells.
The 1500mAh, 3.2V test cells will be produced on a semi-industrial line in Germany.
As LiFePO4 cathode chemistry increases its market share it becomes more important to be able to recycle end-of-life lithium cells that use this chemistry.
The cells will be assembled into batteries for use in stationary storage for energy obtained from photovoltaic panels in Italy.
The technology allows considerable energy savings as:
- The process does not use reagents in chemical or thermal synthesis operations, so the quantity of CO2 emitted is less than producing the same cell derived from metals and organic compounds obtained from mines or by synthesis
- Raw materials are already present in the national waste battery stream
- No import of metals such as aluminium, copper and LiFePO4 is required
- 75% of the original cell materials are used for the same purpose in the new cells, which helps toward a circular economy