ACE Green Recycling (ACE) and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to develop and enhance the former’s environment-friendly and low-cost lithium-ion battery recycling technology for recycling of graphite, lithium-iron phosphate (LFP), and other cathode active materials.
ACE has developed its proprietary technology for recycling LFP batteries at a lower scale and is undergoing a commercial scale-up. NREL will not only help ACE in evaluating the commercialization of this process to recycle LFP batteries but also enable upcycling graphite to battery grade, under the contract.
NREL will offer its expertise in cell production, modeling, analysis, and other advanced tools to demonstrate ACE technology's value proposition. The primary work will be conducted at NREL's facility in Colorado.
The project aims to identify ideal recycling parameters for LFP and graphite and maximize performance and lifetime requirements of batteries made from recycled materials using ACE's technology as compared to the ones made from virgin materials.
The potential upcycling of graphite obtained from ACE's technology will minimize the need for more than 60,000 MT of graphite electrodes currently imported by the U.S. and reduce dependence on foreign supply chains.
The collaboration supports the Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to support the localization of the supply chain of critical materials within the U.S.
Over the coming years, LFP battery-based electric vehicles are expected to increase, while automobile manufacturers like Tesla and Ford have moved to LFP from Nickel and Cobalt batteries due to its lower cost. LFP battery recycling is challenging due to the difficulty in extracting its valuable materials (lithium and graphite) profitably.
"Current hydrometallurgical recycling methods focus on extracting high-value materials from LFP batteries, such as lithium and copper," said Andrew Colclasure, NREL. "To encourage a more holistic approach to recycling, we must demonstrate efficient processes that also recycle low-value materials such as graphite and iron-phosphate into commercially viable products."