Argonne has identified lithium-ion battery recycling as a critical area and is becoming a leader in this space.
Argonne developed the ReCell model, which compares the cost and environmental impact of a battery with virgin material to the same battery with recycled content. It calculates the impacts at each stage of its life cycle. Each stage can be individually changed and assessed. The model can be used as a tool to help identify where work needs to be done in the laboratory in order attain optimal cost and environmental impacts.
The first generation of plug-in electric vehicles will be showing up in the dismantling yards in the next few years resulting in a large influx of end-of-life batteries needing proper handling and recycling. The number of battery-powered vehicles sold in the US has grown from 52,500 units in 2012 to over 116,000 vehicles sold in 2015; that is more than a 200% increase in just 3 years. If a vehicle’s life is 10 years then these batteries will need processing around 2022.
Current recycling options are losing economic viability as manufactures reduce the amount of cobalt that can be recovered. A new alternative or a way to expand direct recycling, which retains battery cathode material in its original structure, to commercial scale is needed.
Argonne has more than two decades of material recovery and recycling experience and is a leader in battery research. Much of the equipment, from bench to pilot scale, already exist and are ready for use in battery recycling.