Developing a cost-effective and environmentally sound recycling process for lithium-ion batteries requires a suite of complex techniques rooted in fundamental chemistry and materials science.

It requires advances in separation techniques, a deep understanding of evolving battery chemistries and geometries, and the development of novel electrochemical techniques for relithiation.

It is a difficult challenge.

Unlike lead-acid batteries, which contain only three materials that require a few simple operations, lithium-ion batteries have several materials with complex designs. The methods to separate them are either expensive, energy intensive, or simply don’t exist. The chemistries and morphologies of these compound materials are complex and customized by individual manufactures, making a standard recycling method nearly impossible. What material is recovered, often is not recovered completely or has impurities that reduce its performance.

In addition, the process of recovery often costs more than the material is worth. Battery owners must pay recycling operators to cover the cost of recycling batteries with low-cobalt content. This problem will only increase as cobalt-rich battery systems are phased out, leaving one less recycled component for sale.

Developing an efficient recycling process that recovers material in high-value form for sale back to manufacturers is key to encouraging lithium-ion battery recycling.

To do that, the Advanced Battery Recycling R&D Facility team has focused on solving four of the largest R&D challenges to wide spread adoption:

Lithium-ion Recycling Practices

A goal of the ReCell Center is to drive towards closed-loop recycling where materials from spent batteries are directly recycled, minimizing energy use and waste by eliminating mining and processing steps.

Direct Recycling of Materials

Direct recycling is the recovery, regeneration, and reuse of battery components directly without breaking down the chemical structure. ReCell is working to drive the development of new technologies for direct recycling and focuses on generating as much value as possible from the components inside of a battery.

View More

Advanced Resource Recovery

Recycling processes that are not related to direct recycling are captured in this focus area. This includes technologies used as part of hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical recycling approaches. These methods are currently used by industry to recycle lithium-ion batteries.

View More

Modeling and Analysis

The main goal of ReCell is to develop lithium-ion battery recycling technologies that will be used by industry in the United States. In order for our processes to be adopted by industry, they must be economical and environmentally sound.

View More

Design for Sustainability

Designing new batteries with second life or end-of-life in mind can greatly improve recyclability. The ReCell Center focuses on enhancing the sustainability and adoption of used batteries.

View More

Crosscutting Efforts

This focus area takes advantage of well-established DOE facilities for materials production, cell building, cell testing and diagnostics. ReCell collaborators utilize these cross-cutting capabilities to accelerate deployment of R&D results from individual tasks to industry.

View More