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