High-tech Company Achieves Breakthrough in Battery Recycling
Modern Environmental Engineering & The Recycling IndustryRadebeul, )
How are electric-vehicle batteries recycled? How are rechargeable batteries and potentially hazardous substances disposed of? Every second person finds themselves asking these and other questions, because battery-powered electric vehicles have been coming under fire—not just for their often unsatisfactory range, but particularly also for their apparently dubious environmental balance sheet. Their batteries contain a number of important and rare raw materials, most of which cannot be directly re-used once they reach the end of their life cycle. This is due to the variety of materials and the complex structure of the batteries, which cannot be broken down on a material-specific basis using conventional recycling methods, and thus cannot be recovered in a high enough quality to be fed back into the production process. As such, it is generally only by recycling material compounds using the pyro/hydrometallurgical process that valuable elements can be recovered.
If e-mobility develops as planned by most manufacturers, the issue of battery-recycling will have to be addressed at an industrial scale. Radebeul-based company ImpulsTec is making a move here, having successfully used a continuous shockwave system to recycle worn-out electric-vehicle batteries and render the precious raw materials usable again.
Shockwave technology for environmentally friendly, socially responsible recycling of electronic scrap
The innovative shockwave fragmentation process enables scrap from industrial materials to be mechanically exposed and reinforced for more efficient recycling.
The previously discharged battery cells are sent, via conventional conveyor technology, into a fragmentation tank filled with an aqueous medium. This is where the material is actually treated. At least four parallel high-voltage electrodes are used to generate a cycle of shockwaves in the fragmentation tank. These intensive pressure surges hit the battery cells, causing the cell’s casing to open. The advantages of this process include the fact that the medium in which the treatment occurs is a liquid (as this passivates the electrolyte that subsequently leaks out), that there is no fire risk, and that no hazardous, cobalt-containing dust particles can be produced. Further shockwave treatment can fragment the opened battery cells into cathode and anode material, and selectively de-coat them. This simultaneously enables the valuable cathode coating (usually a cobalt-containing mixed-metal oxide) to be very easily separated from the anode coating (usually graphite) using the smart shockwave treatment, resulting in economic benefits when the concentrates are recycled. The fragmented battery materials are transported out of the fragmentation tank and separated using conventional conveyor and sorting equipment.
The shockwave process is particularly used for cobalt-containing lithium-ion batteries, for which it is especially economical, though it can generally also be used to process other battery materials.
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