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US battery consortium pumps US$1.8 million into lithium-ion project

The US Advanced Battery Consortium has awarded US$1.8 million to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute to advance its research regarding lithium-ion battery recycling.

The AdvancedBattery Consortium, which is a collaborative organisation of Ford Motor Company, General Motors and FCA US LLC, is funding an innovative 24-month project battery recycling project conducted by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. This ‘phase 2 contract’ will enable researchers to demonstrate the ability of a new process to recycle spent lithium-ion batteries and produce new cathode materials to generate a premium nickel cathode powder.

Patented solution

Theresearch is led by Professor Yan Wang, who developed a patented closed-loop recycling process inwhich the batteries are first shredded. After the shredded materials areseparated, the cathode powders are dissolved. By adjusting the chemistry of thesolution, new materials, in the desired ratios, can be precipitated out asprecursor and used to make cathode material for new batteries.

Other materials recovered from the shredded batteries – including steel, graphite, and plastics – can also be recycled.

A new challenge

Whilethe work was previously proven to present an effective recycling solution, researchers argue that modern-day batteries have changed. Especially the last five years, battery makers and car manufacturers have favoured higher nickel cathode formulations in hopes to limit the quantity of cobalt contained in the cathode powders.

Thischange in materials used results in batteries that can store more energy, Wang observes. And yet, he points out that producing nickel-rich cathodes is a ‘moredemanding’ process that requires additional steps not required for cobalt-richcathodes.

Therefore, Wang and his team will seek to demonstrate their ability to produce high-quality nickel-rich cathode powders from materials recovered from recycled batteries. The objective is to create cathode powders that can be incorporated into batteries with electrochemical performance of the same high quality as OEMcontrol units made with commercial powder.

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