Efficient recycling processes for lithium-ion batteries at Fraunhofer THM

Current research

© Fraunhofer IKTS
Fraunhofer Technology Center High Performance Materials THM.
© Fraunhofer IKTS
Black mass of end-of-life batteries to be processed for the recovery of valuable metals.
© Fraunhofer IKTS
Pilot plant for Li recovery using the COOL process.

The Fraunhofer Technology Center High Per­formance Materials THM in Freiberg/Saxony is a research and transfer platform of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB and the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS. Together, semiconductor materials as well as energetic materials and their applications are investigated, addressing the complete value chain, from synthesis to process development to recycling. Furthermore, Fraunhofer IKTS cooperates closely with the Institute of Chemical Technology at TU Bergakademie Freiberg (TUBAF).

One research focus of Fraunhofer IKTS in Freiberg is on the life cycle of lithium-ion bat­teries (LIBs) – from material to electrode pro­duction and assembly, and the future recycling of the materials. The work hones in on holis­tic and integrated solutions tailored to the requirements of the industry, for a closed bat­tery production loop. The battery electrodes are developed using various pilot plants under lab and dry room conditions (TP -60 °C).

In order to provide the amounts of raw materi­als required to meet the increasing battery demand for e-mobility in the context of sus­tainability and the circular economy, environ­mentally friendly and efficient refurbishment and recycling processes for end-of-life batteries are indispensable. In the field of battery recy­cling, Fraunhofer IKTS therefore concentrates on concepts and technologies with which material and substance cycles can be closed and recovered material can be reused.

Together with the Institute of Chemical Tech­nology of TUBAF, we are investigating how to scale up the alternative COOL process to recover Li selectively from black mass, as part of the project “EarLiMet – Early Stage Metal Recovery for Energy and Resource Efficient Recycling of Li-ion Batteries”. These efforts have shown that 95 % of the lithium can be recovered after leaching with CO2, forming Li2CO3, obtained as a main product in battery-grade quality. Afterwards, valuable raw mate­rials such as cobalt, nickel, manganese and copper remain in the Li-free black mass.

The recovery of these valuable and critical raw materials from the cathode active material (CAM) was investigated within the BMBF project “EVanBatter – Development of a Re-synthesis Route of Active Materials for LIBs that is Robust Against Impurities” (funding no. 03XP0340C). The purpose is to determine tol­erable contaminant limits for CAM with alumi­num and iron to reduce the purification steps within the entire recycling process, thus con­tributing not only to the reduction of chemicals but also to process efficiency.

In addition, IKTS is planning further infrastruc­ture development at Fraunhofer THM in order to digitize battery production further and to automate recycling processes to a greater degree.

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