Novel Recycled Lithium Ion Batteries Outperform New Ones

Highlights :

  • The new batteries are more porous, charge faster and last longer.
  • A novel method of recycling such batteries could help meet skyrocketing demand and give fillip to circular economy
Novel Recycled Lithium Ion Batteries Outperform New Ones

Just when the demand for lithium ion batteries are skyrocketing for their immense use in the consumer world today and the industry is struggling hard to find lithium and other minerals’ sources on the planet, it has been found that recycling lithium ion batteries may well be better than creating new ones.

A research published in Joule explains a recycling method that refurbishes the cathode —which is a carefully crafted crystal that is the lithium-ion battery’s most expensive component and key to supplying the proper voltage.

The novel finding is that the batteries which are created with cathode-recycling technique are not below par with the new lithium ion batteries in any sense. In fact their performance is better than the new batteries as researchers found that the new battery simply lasts longer and charges faster.

Yan Wang has been on the forefront of this invention. Wang is a materials science professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and co-author of the new study. “some people joked with me, ‘There’s not enough batteries for you to recycle,’” says Wang. The battery market is expected to grow 10-fold over the next decade. In this backdrop, recycling of lithium-ion batteries—getting that material back into the supply chain—is critical,” says Dave Howell, director of the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office. The present project of recycled lithium ion batteries is actually funded by the DOE. The new invention may spur large-scale battery recycling innovations in the United States.

As far as technological innovation is concerned with regards to the novel recycled batter, it’s quite a process. When a lithium-ion battery is providing power, a cluster of lithium ions moves from the anode to the cathode. At present, a lithium ion battery is recycled by simply dismantling and shredding the whole battery followed by melting it all down or dissolving it in acid.

What one gets in the end is a black mass. From this chemical elements or simple compounds are salvaged. Those recovered products can then go through the same commercial manufacturing process that newly mined elements do to make cathodes.

Wang and his colleagues too used a similar process but with an amendment. They didn’t completely break the battery down but kept some of the old cathode’s crucial composition intact. After shredding the battery, Wang physically removed the less expensive bits and recycled them separately. Now the remainder is cathode material from which impurities are removed by dissolving the cathode in acid.

To complete the recycling of the cathode, they carefully add just a touch of fresh elements that compose the cathode, such as nickel and cobalt, to ensure the ratio of ingredients is just right and the robust battery is ready once again.

The researchers have found that this recycled lithium ion battery is more formidable than the new ones. The recycled powder particles were more porous with large voids in the center of each one. These voids provide room for the cathode crystal to swell slightly as lithium ions squeeze into it, and this wiggle room keeps the crystal from cracking as easily as cathodes built from scratch. Reduction in cracking means that the battery will not degrade easily.

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