New Method to Regenerate Valuable Materials in Lithium-ion Batteries

Industry Insights

In China, in 2020, 2.5 billion end-of-life lithium-ion batteries are expected to be generated from portable electronics such as laptops and smartphones, but very few are recycled. While the batteries are discarded, the materials inside them are of use.

To bring the valuable compounds into use, a team of researchers at Washington University are developing a method to recycle materials of batteries. For this, the team conducted a viability study to refill lithium-ion batteries electrochemically in the used electrodes to obtain valuable compounds such as lithium cobalt oxide.

Meanwhile, discarded lithium-ion batteries contain useful metals such as cobalt, lithium, nickel, copper, iron, and aluminum. Some toxic materials generated from used lithium-ion batteries are polyvinylidene fluoride and lithium hexaflurophosphate. Lithium is a valuable mineral resource with limited reserves, hence recycling of the metal may help to serve the shortage and minimize environmental pollution.

Study Vies to Recover inside Materials of batteries intact

For discarded batteries, 95% of the materials are available and are usable. Therefore, the team vied if complete lithium cobalt compounds could be recovered directly, instead of recovering individual elements and then combining them to be a useful compound. To accomplish this, the team employed an electrodeposition process wherein lithium ions were deposited on the waste electrodes powered by the electricity that generates the electric field to absorb the ion onto the electrode.

“If extra amount of lithium ion if added to the waste electrode, and complete formula can be obtained that allows to reuse those materials,” stated one of the researchers.

Since lithium-ion batteries are inexpensive, there is not much value to recycle, hence, only 5% lithium-ion batteries are recycled, added the lead researcher of the study.

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