New Environment-Friendly Method potentially Cuts Down Costs in the Recycling of Lithium-Ion Batteries

  • Analysis
  • 19-November-2020

A new process has been discovered by the nano engineers hailing from the University of San Diego that restores the used cathodes to its mint condition, thereby making the recycling process of lithium-ion batteries more economical. It is known to be more environment-friendly in comparison to today’s methods as it consumes approximately 80-90% less energy, uses greener ingredients, and emits 75% less amount of greenhouse gases.

Cathodes made up of lithium iron phosphate, or LFP, are mainly used for this process as LFP cathodes are budget-friendly compared to other lithium-ion batteries as they mostly use inexpensive metals instead of nickel or cobalt. LFP is the go-to option also because they are known to be safer and have a longer lifespan. They are broadly used in energy grids, electric buses, and power tools. They are also selected as the battery for the latest Tesla’s Model 3. With all these advantages, LFP batteries definitely have a competitive edge over all other lithium-ion batteries available, as stated by a professor of nano engineering from UC San Diego.

The recycling process is not cost-effective, which is known to be the only hindrance. The dilemma, in this case, can be compared to that of plastics – cheap materials with a costly recycling process. The new and innovative recycling process developed by the research team from the University of San Diego has found a solution to lower these costs. The process takes place at ambient pressure and low temperatures (60 to 80C), making it one of the less power consuming methods. Also, chemicals like nitrogen, citric acid, lithium salt, and water are used, which are benign and inexpensive in nature.

The complete regeneration process is done at extremely safe conditions without the need for any special equipment or safety precautions, thereby making the recycling process of batteries budget-friendly. The cathode’s structure is restored with the help of the process by the replenishment of lithium ions. As a result of this, it becomes very easy for lithium ions and iron to shift back to their original positions. Even though the method's overall energy costs are lower, further studies are required on the logistics of handling, transporting, and collecting large quantities of batteries, as suggested by the researchers.

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