Researchers from the Faraday Institution have developed a new method to recover materials used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries at the end of their life.
The method could lead to manufacturers re-using the materials for new batteries.
The method uses ultrasonic waves to separate out valuable material from the electrodes, which ends up being 100 times quicker and greener and offers higher purity of recovered materials compared to current methods, Faraday said.
While recycling batteries is not a new concept, materials segregation has been an issue. Chief among those issues is how to remove and separate critical materials such as lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt from used batteries fast but also in an environmentally friendly way.
How they did it
The ultrasonic delamination process blasts the active materials from the electrodes, leaving aluminum or copper. The process proved effective in removing graphite and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxides.
The materials recovered were found to have a higher purity than those recovered in conventional recycling approaches and is potentially easier to use in new electrode manufacturing, Faraday said.
“For the full value of battery technologies to be captured for the U.K., we must focus on the entire life cycle — from the mining of critical materials to battery manufacture to recycling — to create a circular economy that is both sustainable for the planet and profitable for industry,” said Pam Thomas, professor and CEO at Faraday Institution.
Current delamination recycling methods use concentrated acids in a batch immersion process. The ultrasonic method is a continuous, feed process that uses water or diluted acids as the solvent. It can delaminate 100 times more electrode material in a given time and volume than existing batch delamination methods.
Researchers said they are in discussions with battery manufacturers and recycling companies to place a technology demonstrator at an industrial site in 2021 and aim to license the technology longer term.
The full research can be found in the journal Green Chemistry.