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German consortium targets ‘holistic’ battery metals solution

Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is lending its expertise to a new battery recycling project called LiBinfinity. The goal is finding a holistic way to recycle lithium-ion batteries.

The R&D project, which received EUR 17 million in funding from the federal ministry, is using a mechanical-hydrometallurgical process. This method is described as low energy intensive because battery fractions are separated at relatively low temperatures using only water and non-aggressive chemicals. Researchers and scientists involved in the work are scaling up the solution, following success in the lab, to allow for industry scale battery-to-battery recycling.

LiBinfinity targets valuable battery metals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese. In theory, some 90% of battery materials can be extracted and recycled, though reality is still catching up.

The R&D consortium is led by Licular, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz. Partners include Daimler Truck, Primobius, SMG group, Clausthal University of Technology and the Technical University of Berlin. As a next step, they are building a pilot recycling plant with an annual capacity of 2 500 tonnes at the Mercedes-Benz site in Kuppenheim.

When electrifying trucks, batteries will need so much material that recyclates will not suffice for other applications,’ says Professor Helmut Ehrenberg, head of KIT’s Institute for Applied Materials & Energy Storage Systems. ‘We will need a closed loop for batteries. This means using the materials of spent batteries to produce new ones.’

Ehrenberg explains it is KIT’s task is to check whether the recycled or recovered materials are suitable for the manufacture of new batteries. Such validation is vital, he adds, as the materials must meet strict specifications. This especially applies to cathode materials as they largely determine the efficiency, reliability, lifetime, and cost of batteries.

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