These materials create a more porous ion-negotiated structure. Most people prefer to reuse and replace cells for a second life as stable storage.
But in some cases, even these batteries expire, and it makes sense to recycle them, given concerns about providing new batteries for replacement. According to a study published in the journal Joule, even using recycled materials may lead to better batteries.
Recycling a complex structure such as a battery cell is difficult compared to internal recycling programmes. But this is potentially a lucrative income, which means that it is not overlooked by academia or industry. This Joule study, led by Professor Yan Wang at Worcester Polytechnic, investigates the function of lithium-ion cells that have nickel, manganese and cobalt cathodes from other cells.
First of all, used lithium-ion batteries ("any type and condition") are crushed and sieved before being cut. Objects, wires, plastics, and circuit boards are removed for recycling, leaving a black mass containing graphite, cathode materials, and some other metals. Then, various substances are removed from the black mass by washing and filtering, and in the end the ions of nickel, manganese and cobalt remain. The addition of fresh nickel-manganese sulfate and cobalt was determined to achieve the final desired ratio for each type of cell being made. After further treatment and several hours of heating, the recycled cathode powder is ready for use in the new battery cell.Advertising
Does the newer recycling work?
Wang and colleagues tested the recycled cathode powder on a number of cell types: coins, monolayers, 1 ohm and 11 ohm. They compared the performance of different types with similar cells made of "fresh" cathode powder. With one notable exception: cells that used recycled cathode material lasted up to 53% longer.
Single-celled cells are frequently loaded (1C) and emptied (2C) to determine how many times they take before they start. Degradation of control cells decreased to 80% of their initial capacity after 3150 cycles and to 70% after 7,600 cycles, which were performed at this point. Meanwhile, cells of recycled material could go through 4,200 cycles before dropping to just 80 percent, and an "amazing" 11,600 cycles before 70 percent were the best they could do.
When they examined the recycled cathode powder with a scanning electron microscope, they found that the particles are quite similar, but the recycled particles have larger pores in their centers than the control particles. In addition, the recycled powders were more brittle. The more porous structure facilitates the diffusion of lithium ions, and because of its greater flexibility, it is more resistant to cracking after repeated charging and discharging.
Batteries using recycled cathode material may appear soon. In early 2022, Wang, a startup called Battery Resources, will open its first cell recycling plant in the United States and plans to add two more in Europe by the end of next year. The company says it should be able to recycle 30,000 tons of batteries annually by the end of 2022.
Joules, 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2021.9.005 (about DOIs)
According to the researchers, using recycled cathodes will make lithium batteries better
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