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Challenges in Direct Recycling of Lithium-Ion Batteries from Battery to Black Mass

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The recycling of aged or defective Li-ion batteries (systems and cells) is an essential source of raw materials to produce tomorrow’s batteries. Nowadays, the established recycling processes are based on energy intensive and complex pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical extraction of raw materials.
Despite of these established routes, from energetic point of view, it is conceivable to directly reuse the products of individual dismantling stages like second life of battery modules and electronic components as well as reuse of active material, metal foils and structural compartments.
Nevertheless, this procedure is not trivial. It requires the determination of the current state of large quantities of different batteries from electromobility, stationary storage, consumer and industrial applications is quite complicated. Access to data from battery management system as well as the history of the respective battery is rarely available nor standardized.
Furthermore, batteries are not always designed to allow easy separation of their components. This is challenging for the automated disassembly of modules and cells and their separation into anode, cathode, separator, and electrolyte. Furthermore, it is necessary to obtain battery grade materials for direct reuse in recyclate lithium-ion cells.
This work focuses on the challenges in diagnosis and classification of incoming battery systems and modules as well as the direct recycling of the active material of lithium-ion cells that are no longer suitable for further use. The work was funded within Recycle and ReALBatt projects by German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and Federal Ministry of Research and Education, respectively.

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