Researchers in Britain and the United States have found ways to recycle electric vehicle batteries that can drastically reduce costs and carbon emissions by reducing sustainable supplies for an expected increase in demand.
The techniques, which include recovering parts of the battery so that they can be reused, will help the automaker face the criticism that while EVs reduce emissions over their lifetime, they start with a heavy carbon footprint from miners. materials.
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As national governments and regions struggle to secure supplies for an expected acceleration of EV demand, the discoveries could make valuable supplies of materials such as cobalt and nickel. They will also reduce dependence on China and difficult mining jurisdictions.
“We can’t recycle composite products like batteries the way we recycle other metals. Shredding, mixing the components of a battery and fire metallurgy are destroying value,” said Gavin Harper, a researcher at the Faraday Institution in Britain.
Pyrometallurgy refers to the extraction of high-heat metals in blast furnaces, which analysts say is not economical.
Current recycling methods are also based on chopping batteries into very small pieces, known as black mass, which are then processed into metals such as cobalt and nickel.
The transition to a practice known as direct recycling, which would maintain components such as descent and ascent, could drastically reduce energy waste and construction costs.
Researchers from the University of Leicester and the University of Birmingham working on the Faraday Foundation’s ReLib project have found a way to use ultrasonic waves to recycle the descent and ascent without shredding and have applied for a patent.
The technology recovers the cathode powder consisting of cobalt, nickel and manganese from the foil, to which it is glued in the manufacture of batteries. The anode powder, which will usually be graphite, is separated from the copper foil.
Andy Abbott, a professor of physical chemistry at the University of Leicester, said the separation using ultrasonic waves would result in a 60% cost savings compared to the cost of virgin material.
Compared to the more conventional technology, based on hydrometallurgy, which uses liquids such as sulfuric acid and water to extract materials, he said, ultrasound technology can process 100 times more battery material over the same period.
Abbott’s team has split the batteries manually to test the process, but ReLib is working on a project to use robots to separate batteries and packages more efficiently.
As levels of consumables and waste take time to accumulate, Abbott said he expected the technology to use raw scraps from battery plants as raw material and recycled material will be refueled into battery production.
In the United States, a government-funded project at the Department of Energy called ReCell is in the final stages of demonstrating different but promising recycling technologies that renew the battery’s descent to make it a new descent.
ReCell, led by Jeff Spangenberger, has studied many different methods, including ultrasound, but has focused on thermal and solvent methods.
“The US does not make much of a descent domestically, so if we use hydrometallurgy or pyrometallurgy, we have to send the recycled materials to other countries to be descent and sent back to us,” Spangenberger said.
“In order to make lithium-ion battery recycling profitable, without the need to dispose of it to consumers, and to encourage growth in the recycling industry, new methods must be developed that generate higher profit margins for recyclers.”
There are challenges to immediate recycling, including ever-evolving chemistry, Spangenberger said. “ReCell is working to separate the different chemical cathodes.”
Early electric vehicle batteries typically used a cathode with equal amounts of nickel, manganese, cobalt or 1-1-1. This has changed in recent years as manufacturers seek to reduce costs and chemical descents can be 5-3-2, 6-2-2 or 8-1-1.
The approach in the work of Faraday ReLib is to mix recycled with virgin material to get the required proportions of nickel, manganese and cobalt.