It is well known that Lithium-ion batteries are harmful to the environment.
Lithium is the lightest metal on earth, and it’s used in all kinds of batteries but is expensive to mine, so recycling old batteries can help keep costs down
Recycling batteries offer a way to help cut back on mining and boost one of the main problems tarnishing the green image of Electric Vehicles (EVs).
However, while EV battery recycling is beginning to take off, getting manufacturers to use recycled materials is difficult because the impression is that recycled material is not as good as new material.
A new study from the US Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) published in the journal Joule shows batteries with recycled cathodes can be even better than those using new materials.
The team study was based around batteries using recycled NMC111 cathodes ( nickel, manganese, and cobalt ). These are the most common type of cathodes in commercial use.
The cathodes were created using a patented recycling technique that involves shredding batteries and removing the steel cases, aluminium and copper wires, plastics, and pouch materials for recycling.
The remaining battery mass is then dissolved in solvents, and impurities filtered out. This left the team with nickel, manganese and cobalt which they then were able to mix to the correct ratios to make cathode powders.
The study found that the recycled material showed a more porous microscopic structure that is better for lithium ions to slip in and out of.
The real-world effect of this was that the batteries had an energy density similar to those made with commercial cathodes, but had a 53% longer cycle life.
The team have commercialised the process and area already selling their recycled materials to battery manufacturers at a small scale.
The next step will be the creation of a commercial plant to process 10,000 tons of batteries next year.
Published as ‘Recycled cathode materials enabled superior performance for lithium-ion batteries‘ in Joule.