Researchers at the University of Birmingham have developed a method for recycling battery cathodes from end-of-life EV batteries using Vitamin C and other less hazardous chemicals than current recycling methods.
To test the new process, researchers utilized Nissan Leaf battery cells with at least 40,000 miles and applied organic acids, such as ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), as the leaching agents. The results showed that the ascorbic acid selectively leached low-value electrode material, such as lithium manganese oxide, while leaving higher-value nickel and cobalt-based materials in a solid state, allowing them to be directly recycled.
This method, now patented by the University of Birmingham Enterprise, is believed to have considerable potential for simplifying the battery recycling process, which currently recycles elements by dissolving battery cathodes in strong acids.
“Battery chemistry, and cathode chemistry in particular, is constantly evolving to meet the demand for greater energy density. However, battery recycling has remained relatively static,” said Professor Peter Slate, School of Chemistry, Co-Director of the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage. “The challenge with recycling mixed chemistries is to separate out the low and high-value materials. Our method removes the low-value material while leaving the high-value material in a solid state, so it can be directly recycled, maintaining its high value.”
This research is part of the Recycling and Reuse of EV Lithium-Ion Batteries project, a multi-institution consortium of researchers aiming to improve the speed, economics, and environmental footprint of the battery recycling process.
The research team is currently working to scale up its new approach and is seeking long-term partners to conduct pilot studies, apply the technology to existing infrastructures, and collaborate on further research to continue developing the system.