How Old Mining Techniques Are Being Used To Recycle Batteries

AUG 6 2018 BY VANJA KLJAIC 15

How can century-old minerals processing methods provide an economically viable recycling solution for lithium-ion batteries

Recycling old vehicle batteries is one of the biggest qualms the general public has with electric vehicles. With more and more hitting the roads today, an economically viable solution to recycle lithium-ion batteries needs to be found. While second-life solutions such as power storage units are a fine transitional solution, the fact remains: these batteries will need to be recycled someplace down the road. Hence, when the chemical engineering students at Michigan Technological University ventured into finding such a solution, everybody paid attention.

And what they found is simply staggering. The team found a way to use century-old minerals processing methods, all in order to create a process that allows them to recycle lithium-ion batteries. The technology allows them to separate everything in the battery: the casing, metal foils and coatings for the anode and cathode.

“The biggest advantage of our process is that it’s inexpensive and energy efficient. For the purpose of remanufacturing, our recycled materials are as good as virgin materials, and they are cheaper,” Oldenburg adds.

Lei Pan, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University notes how their process is easily transformable into modern day tech. After all, the process is already tried and tested, making it an attractive option for the battery industry.

“We saw the opportunity to use an existing technology to address emerging challenges. We use standard gravity separations to separate copper from aluminum, and we use froth flotation to recover critical materials, including graphite, lithium and cobalt. These mining technologies are the cheapest available, and the infrastructure to implement them already exists.”

To further his research, Lei Pan has received funding from the Michigan Technological University Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) statewide Innovation Hub. Additionally, the project received a $15,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency as well. An article showcasing the process and research was published online in Sustainable Materials and Technologies.

Source: Green Car Congress

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15 Comments on "How Old Mining Techniques Are Being Used To Recycle Batteries"

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Ron

So, what is the process, and how is (present tense) it being used to recycle batteries?

Reboot

I think it’s none at this moment… Or sent to Ghana to rest there indefinitely.

Ziv

I think Retriev/Toxco can do it, but it is cost prohibitive. There will need to be a subsidy and/or newer techniques like those alluded to above.

Ron M

We saw the opportunity to use an existing technology to address emerging challenges. We use standard gravity separations to separate copper from aluminum, and we use froth flotation to recover critical materials, including graphite, lithium and cobalt. These mining technologies are the cheapest available, and the infrastructure to implement them already exists

GuyMan

The real details are here: – https://www.mtu.edu/unscripted/stories/2018/august/teaching-old-tech-new-tricks.html and https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214993718300241?via%3Dihub (for the details)

The short version: gravity separations, froth flotation, and using H2O as the solvent..

Yea, the write up/summary was kind of weak on details…

Roy_H

I remember reading many years ago about Tesla setting up an agreement with a re-cycling company in Oregon (I think) which completely recovered all the raw materials just as this article claims. This was pre-Model S and was about the original Roadster batteries.

John

Very easy, the anode is the one needs to be processed, electrolyte stays the same.

Reboot

These are great news since I’ve always been concerned about batteries end and finite materials exhaustion.

Ron M

Tesla is al ready recycling batteries, this may be a cheaper way to do it.

GuyMan

Citation please? – And do you know the process that they are using?

David Murray

I have never once been concerned about battery recycling. For example, how many people are or have been concerned about catalytic convert recycling? I mean, are people concerned about catalytic converters filling up landfills and leeching dangerous chemicals into the ground? No? Oh, that’s because the metals used in those converters are very valuable so the free market works just fine in making sure these are recycled properly. EV batteries will be much the same.

GuyMan

Lead Acid batteries get re-cycled at 99% today – A good summary (if somewhat dated) comparing Li-Ion, versus LeadAcid is below – Basically, the problem (as always) is cost, virign materials are much cheaper (today), than recycling – Hopefully, the MTU article above helps to lower the recycling costs..

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214993714000037 (PDF is downloadable from this link)

carcus

Totally different situation (and bad analogy). Thieves will crawl under your car and cut out the catalytic converter. They’ll walk right past a pile of used (i.e. won’t take a charge) lithium ion batteries (which currently are worth nothing) ,.. in fact you might have to pay someone to take them.

/great if this is a battery recycling breakthrough … but remains to be proven in the real world

Ziv

Retrive claims they have recycled 25,000,000 pounds of lithium batteries, not sure of the type of packs though.
http://www.retrievtech.com/recycling/lithium-ion