Perfecting the electric vehicle battery recycling process — ScienceDaily

Recycling electric car batteries may be easier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly, according to a new scientific paper from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, which describes an optimized recycling process. The research, published in the journal Waste Managementwas carried out by some of the world’s leading experts in the field and represents an essential step towards the electromobility society of the future.

As the use of electric vehicles (EVs) increases, the processes for recycling and recovering EV batteries and the critical raw metals used in their production are becoming an increasingly important area of ​​research. One method that is currently attracting a lot of interest is a combination of thermal pretreatment and hydrometallurgy, in which aqueous chemistry is used to recover metals. Several companies are developing systems that will use this combination, but researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, found that these companies use very different temperatures and times in their processes, and that there is a large need for a comparative study to determine the optimal heat treatment and hydrometallurgical process for the recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

30 minutes and room temperature may be enough

One of the main conclusions of the new study is that the hydrometallurgical process can be carried out at room temperature. This is something that has never been tested before, but can bring major benefits in the form of reduced environmental impacts and reduced battery recycling costs. The process can also be done much faster than previously thought.

“Our research can make a huge difference for developers in this field. In some cases, this can go as far as reducing the temperature from 60 to 80 degrees Celsius, down to room temperature, and from several hours to just 30 minutes,” says Burcak Ebin, a researcher in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. of Chalmers and one of the principal authors of the article.

The researchers studied how the different steps – thermal pretreatment and hydrometallurgy – are affected by each other. An important comparison was made between two different approaches to thermal pretreatment — incineration or pyrolysis. The latter is oxygen-free and is considered more environmentally friendly, and researchers have determined that it gives the best results.

“To meet the huge need for battery recycling that is looming, the processes currently in use must be made as effective and efficient as possible, which is why this study offers invaluable insights for manufacturers and operators of this technology. The methods we present can also be used to optimize the recycling of all kinds of lithium-ion batteries,” says Martina Petranikova, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, who has also worked with Northvolt, the one of the largest battery manufacturers in Europe, helping to develop and implement their recycling processes.

Continuous optimization crucial for the domain

If the recycling of electric car batteries is to reach the volumes required for the future, the costs must be drastically reduced. Improving processes is therefore a crucial issue.

“To reduce costs, we need to reduce the steps in the recycling process. We are currently working on several projects for this purpose, and close collaborations and good communication between researchers and technology developers will be extremely important for us in order to succeed in the challenges we face,” says Martina Petranikova.

An example of this can be seen as part of a new trend that has caught on among EV battery producers – solid-state batteries. These batteries contain many more different metals, which makes recycling much more difficult.

“As researchers, we see a vital need to agree on a global standard for a maximum number of metals in these batteries,” says Martina Petranikova.

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Materials provided by Chalmers University of Technology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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