The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Wednesday, 29 November 2023 14:12

Greener solution powers new method for lithium-ion battery recycling

2023-P12386.jpgORNL researchers Lu Yu and Yaocai Bai examine vials that contain a chemical solution that causes the cobalt and lithium to separate from a spent battery, followed by a second stage when cobalt precipitates in the bottom.  Carlos Jones/ORNL/DOE

OAK RIDGE — Used lithium-ion batteries from cell phones, laptops and a growing number of electric vehicles are piling up, but options for recycling them remain limited mostly to burning or chemically dissolving shredded batteries. The current state-of-the-art methods can pose environmental challenges and be difficult to make economical at the industrial scale.

The conventional process recovers few of the battery materials and relies on caustic, inorganic acids and hazardous chemicals that may introduce impurities. It also requires complicated separation and precipitation to recover the critical metals. However, recovering metals such as cobalt and lithium could reduce both pollution and reliance on foreign sources and choked supply chains.

This research is funded as a project of the Advanced Battery Recycling Consortium, or ReCell, a program of the Vehicle Technologies Office within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Lu Yu and Yaocai Bai and researchers Rachid Essehli and Anuj Bisht contributed to the study, which utilized the DOE’s Center for Nanophase Materials Science at ORNL.

— Oak Ridge National Laboratory