Lithium-ion batteries are nothing but commodities and hazardous waste after it is no longer suitable to use in the vehicle or any other application it was used. Electric mobility is sustainable only if the batteries are reused and recycled, currently, few companies are working on recycling and extracting lithium and other precious minerals out of it.
The reuse of the (Tested) batteries in stationary energy storage systems after their first life in Electric vehicles reduces the carbon footprint further.
Analysts predict that by 2030, the batteries that should be recycled annually may cross the 2 million metric tonnes mark.
The old method of recycling lithium-ion batteries, which is the smelting of the batteries wherein the batteries are placed in 1500 degrees Celcius to burn off the impurities, here only the copper, nickel, and cobalt are recovered. Lithium and aluminum are generally lost in the process and the slag is left behind as waste, the European government isn’t entertaining the recycling of batteries by the smelting method.
The sustainable way of recycling batteries
The dead batteries/modules are segregated or sorted on the according to their chemistries, discharged totally and they are shredded (vacuum or nitrogen atmosphere). The power drawn from the dead batteries is used to run the shredder. After the shredding process, we have a fine granular powder of the battery parts and their minerals. Here the electrolyte is completely recovered by evaporating and collected in a tank which can be reused as the base material in the chemical industry. The powder is sieved, passed over magnet separators, and again sieved. The separator, Aluminum, and copper are separated and the grey powder left behind is a mix of valuable minerals which are Lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese.
Duesenfeld GmbH located in Wendeburg, Germany uses this method for recycling and saves 4.8 tonne of carbon dioxide per-tonne of recycled batteries compared to pyrometallurgical processes.
It is found that if shredding could take place at the site of collection of batteries it reduces the carbon footprint by 40%,because then there is no need of transportation of these large bulkier batteries which are considered as “dangerous goods” under IATA DG regulations, Since the charged batteries might ignite under critical conditions.
The Powder is now transported at the lab, the grey powder left behind is Acid bathed, here all the minerals are separated which are Manganese, Nickel, Cobalt, and Lithium in the metal- sulphate forms which can be further used as cathode and anode materials in new cells. Overall more than ninety-five percent of the cell materials can be recycled and reused.