Sustainable recycling of lithium-ion batteries
% metalrecycling rate
Lithium-ion batteries deliver power to smartphones, electric cars and E-bikes and make cordless screwdrivers a powerful tool. And as mobile communication, electric vehicles and DIY are growing markets, the quantity of lithium-ion batteries will rise accordingly. At the same time, the number of lithium-ion battery cells produced will also increase significantly.
Sustainable utilisation from cell production to end of life will therefore become more and more important – but not a problem. For we offer a complete service including the recycling of all battery production waste (e.g. cathode material) and all types of lithium-ion batteries. In all we do, we pursue our Zero Waste vision, already achieving metal recycling rates of 95 percent thanks to state-of-the-art technologies.
Battery recycling generally involves four stages.
In the first stage, the battery systems are identified, assessed and discharged. The high energy value (electric vehicle storage systems, for example, have voltages of up to 700 V) necessitates full discharge. The energy obtained is fed back into Redux’s own grid. In line with our Zero Waste vision, REDUX and Saubermacher participate in several projects involving electric car batteries’ second life. Old electric car batteries, for instance, are used as stationary storage systems in the Austrian headquarters (Second Life pilot project).
The energy storage systems are then dismantled by hand. Given the wide variation in sizes and types, this is the best way to achieve the highest output of secondary raw materials. Depending on the type of battery, this process takes between twenty and more than sixty minutes This process yields plastics, cables, aluminium or electronic components.
After that, the cells of the batteries are deactivated using a special thermal treatment process, after which the coating of the electrode conductor foils and the separator and electrolyte are removed. Contrary to conventional methods, we are able to even extract aluminium conductor foil thanks to special process control.
In the course of the final step, a maximum amount of material is extracted from the thermally deactivated batteries by means of mechanical processing. The composite material is firstly released and the active materials are then isolated directly in a process step. This is followed by sieving and magnetic separation to yield a ferromagnetic fraction, an aluminium fraction and an aluminium-copper fraction.
What’s a bonus is that the extracted active mass is not organically contaminated and only contains trace amounts of fluorine. That means that hydro-metallurgic processing can begin immediately and that pure nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper can be extracted and fed back into the raw material cycle.