Recycling lithium-Ion batteriesRecycling is the activity or process ofextracting and reusing useful substances found in waste. It is very importantdue to the fact that using the process of recycling:· the usage of raw materials can be substantiallyreduced· reduce energy usage· reduce air pollution · reduce landfill pollutionRecyclingis very important when talking about the end life of a battery because they areexpensive to make, and recycling them efficiently means lower constructioncosts and a lower material dependency. Also, the chemical compounds found inthe batteries can be very dangerous. On one hand, these chemical compounds inday to day situations can combust and cause lots of damage, or releasepoisonous gasses dangerous to any living being They are well secured andconstructed under strict regulations, but when they reach their end life, theymust be decommissioned properly. On the other hand, in high concentrations theycan be hard pollutants to the environment.Lithium-ionbatteries are mostly harmless but packs that reached their end-life cycleshould be disposed properly. Regarding Li-Ion batteries, the recycling isn’tprofitable but regulations impose strict disposal conditions especiallyregarding the fact that they contain toxic substances.
Regulations have becomestricter due to the rapid growing volume of Li-ion batteries. Recycling processRecyclingstarts by sorting batteries into chemistries. Collection centers place leadacid, nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal-hydride and lithium ion into designateddrums, sacks or boxes. Battery recyclers claim that recycling can be madeprofitable if a steady stream of batteries, sorted by chemistry, is madeavailable.The combustiblematerial is removed, such as plastics and insulation, with a gas-fired thermaloxidizer. The polluting particles resulted from the process are then taken bythe plant system and filtered, leaving clean cells with metal content.
Thecells are then chopped and melted resulting a metal liquid. The non-metallicsubstances are burned at high temperatures resulting into a black slag, whichwill later be removed.Some of theinstitutions that do the recycling process don not separate the metals on site,but heat them till a liquid state is achieved and for industrial blocksreferred as “pigs” ( 65 pounds, 24 kg), “hogs” (2000 pounds, 746 kg) or”nuggets” (7 pounds, 3.71 kg). The pigs, hogs andnuggets are shipped to metal recovery plants where they are used to producenickel, chromium and iron for stainless steel and other high-end products. Atthe moment, recycling li-ion batteries isn’t profitable compared to mining newmaterials. Studies show that it is needed from 6 to 10 times more energy toretrieve the used materials rather than mining new ones.
Some places havecreated a system where each battery is sorted based on the type of combinationsit’s used. Basically, they use a adaptable system that changes the parametersregarding each type of battery and then recycling them into metal blocksrelated to each technology. Eachcountry sets its own rules and adds tariffs to the purchase price of a newbattery to make recycling feasible. At the moment, the recycling of a ton ofbatteries has a cost range of 1000$-2000$.
Europe hopes to reduce these costsdown to just 300$, including transportation. To do this, Europe is setting upsmall processing plants into strategic geographic regions1 Fora better understanding of the complexity regarding the recycling logic patternan example of the process will be applied to a traction battery as it can beseen bellow: a) Batterysystems -> b) Batterycells ->c) electrodes-> d) Currentcollector + Active material Composition of a traction battery:a) Battery system level: Battery system components Recycling Process type Materials resulted 50-70% Battery cells Further treatment 15-45% Casing Smelting Steel, aluminum 2-6% Wiring Separation -> Smelting Copper, plastic 2-3% Electronics, PCB Separation Iron, copper, aluminum residual 0-3% Cooling tubes, casing parts Granulation Plastic 0-3% Bus bars Separation Copper, Plastic 1-2% Screws, metal parts Reuse, re-melt Iron Rubber, tape, etc, waste b) Battery celllevel: Battery cell level Recycling Process type Materials resulted ca. 65% Electrodes Further treatment 10-15% Steel / Aluminum casing Smelting Aluminum, steel 10-20% Electrolyte Recovery Valuable solvents, electrolytic salt 2 – 5% Further parts Smelting Steel, copper, aluminum ca. 3% Separator/Foils Incineration Steel, copper, aluminum c) Electrodes Electrode level Recycling Process type Materials resulted 15% Copper foil Briquetting-> Smelting 8% Aluminum foil Briquetting -> Smelting 31% Anode coating Hydrometallurgy Lithium, organic residues 46% Cathode coating Hydrometallurgy Lithium, Ni/Co/Mn-solution 1Batteryuniversity.com. (2018).
. online Available at:http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/recycling_batteries Accessed 4 Jan.2018.