Faster, greener technique improves recycling of electric vehicle batteries

Man Holding Power Charging Cable For Electric Car In Outdoor Car Park. And he’s going to connect the car to the charging station in the parking lot near the shopping center

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Researchers have solved a critical challenge in the recovery of materials used in electric vehicle batteries at the end of their life.

The Faraday Institution project is researching ‘Recycling of Lithium-ion Batteries (ReLiB)’ at the Universities of Leicester and Birmingham.

The new method, which uses ultrasonic waves to separate out valuable material from the electrodes, is 100 times quicker, greener and leads to a higher purity of recovered materials relative to current separation methods.

The research has been published in Green Chemistry and the team has applied for a patent. Faraday Institution is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council through the Faraday Battery Challenge UKRI Challenge Fund programme.

Circular economy

Professor Pam Thomas, CEO, The Faraday Institution commented:

For the full value of battery technologies to be captured for the UK, we must focus on the entire life cycle. From the mining of critical materials to battery manufacture to design for recycling, to create a circular economy that is both sustainable for the planet and profitable for industry.

It is imperative that academia, industry and government redouble their efforts to develop the technological, economic and legal infrastructure that would allow a UK EV battery recycling industry to become established to realise the full benefits of a decarbonised transport sector.

High purity

The novel ultrasonic delamination technique removes the active materials from the electrodes leaving virgin aluminium or copper. Materials recovered using the technique have higher purity and value than those recovered in conventional recycling approaches and are potentially easier to use in new electrode manufacture.

The new technique is a continuous, feed process that uses water or dilute acids as the solvent. Therefore, the technique is greener and less expensive to operate than current batch immersion processes that use concentrated acids.

Researchers are in initial discussions with several battery manufacturers and recycling companies to place a technology demonstrator at an industrial site in 2021, with a longer-term aim to license the technology.

Last updated: 13 February 2023

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