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Li- Ion battery recycling

I was looking out for Li- Ion battery recycling technologies since I tried to start a Venture to build a small plant. I am from Europe where the collection system is working quite well, at least for electronic scrap where Li- Ions are included. Acutally the collecting companies are only allowed to trasnport Li- Ion cells when they are still contained in their original casing (e.g. in a notebook battery). In their naked version they need to be stored in special, sand filled bins which puts an additional cost and collection and storage.

After lots of dicussions and research I found out that most of the batteries are simply disposed on the landfill and no collector is really happy with them. In fact, they put additonal costs on them.

Industry and sience have looked at this topic occasionally. You can find some good papers and articles with Google searching for "Li- Ion battery recycling".

To sum up my conclusions up to now we have three key problems:

  1. Li- Ion batteries are considered as hazardous waste by some legislations. -> Expensive storage and transportation
  2. Li- Ion batteries actually only contain small amounts of profitable raw materials worth recovering (Ni and W) and the technologies change to the cheap materials
  3. Actual recycling processes are energy intensive since they either include a hydrometallurgical process or special chemicals
There are some efforts made to "refurbish" the anode and kathode material without distroying the matrix so it can be reused. Some research results are promising and I think thats the way to go.

A recycling plant should in my opinion have three key processes:

  1. Separate the good cells from the bad cells
  • Dismantle the packs
  • Get rid of all the unnecessary materials (Plastic, copper, etc.)
  • Test the cells and remark them
  • Additional quality check
  • Ready for resale
      2. Separate cells based on Anode / Catode formulation
      3. Dismantle the cells so the matrix is kept intact (mechnically) and refurbish it in a lithium salt bath or similar
      4. Produce cells made of the refurbished material

Step number 3) is still a research topic but results look very promising.
Step number 4) is critical since in the past manufacturers have rejected recycled materials since they do not trust in their quality, even if it is approved and QS checked. This will only change if the cells prove themselves for years.

Anybody who is interested can start here with me on the discussion on

  1. How much would the investment be for each single manufacturing step be
  2. What are the current technologies available or under research
For this buisness case I would assume we get 10.000 18650 cells a day of which 4000 are tested as "reusable" and 6000 have to be recycled. I will post my first estimate tomorrow when I finished my spreadsheet.

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