Researchers in Korea are pulverizing battery anodes.
At issue are the expensive metals — lithium, cobalt, and nickel among them — that often require invasive mining to gather. While harvesting techniques for the metals are improving, recycling is an important aspect of creating efficiency and lowering costs in the growing industry.
Experts at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute said that by grinding battery anodes into a black powder, they can add chlorine gas to recover about 97% of the lithium, per the Times. Lithium and other metals are needed in battery chemistry to create charge and discharge cycles.
Better yet, anode components made from the recycled metals showed an increased lifespan, per the Times report, which noted that more than 40% of a battery’s production costs are for anode materials.
In other methods, battery components are heated to 1,625 degrees Fahrenheit and mixed with chemicals before the crucial metals can be gathered. It’s a process that results in inefficiencies and toxic wastewater, the experts told the Times.
“Conventional methods used so far have amalgamated [combined] residual lithium following the heating treatment with other metallic components in ways that lowered battery quality and destabilized anodes,” Kim Hyeong-sub, an institute researcher who helped to develop the crushing process, said in the Times story.
The researchers’ process uses chlorine gas to help separate the materials the experts want to recycle. When combined with other needed elements to create an anode, the team found the upcycled battery component “extended the lifespan by 30%,” per the Times.
It’s important news as more EVs are hitting the road. In July, more than 1.1 million EVs were sold globally.
“The market is expanding at a healthy rate of more than [40%] year-over-year,” Inside EVs reported.
Kim told the Times that his team is perfecting the recycling method with the goal of onboarding the process with firms in Korea. However, the bigger goal is for the method to go beyond the country’s borders, to “become a guideline for recycling wasted EV batteries in an eco-friendly way.”
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