By Energy Storage Publishing, Paul Crompton.

The contract award includes a 75% cost-share, and funds a 30-month project that began in October 2021.

The program aims to demonstrate that battery grade metals can be manufactured from recycled materials at lower cost, lower environmental impact, and with higher domestic US-sourced content than conventional virgin-sourced metals.

Project principal investigator and ABTC CEO Ryan Melsert said: “While the domestic manufacturing capacities of electric vehicles and of lithium-ion battery cells have grown rapidly in the US in recent years, unfortunately the domestic production capacities of the battery metals that supply these operations have not kept pace.

“The establishment of a commercial scale domestic US battery recycling industry can address these challenges and produce each of the battery metals required to supply new manufacturing operations.”

ABTC will use a two-part process: the first is an automated, mechanical de-manufacturing of spent batteries; the second uses a hydrometallurgical process to recover battery-grade chemicals.

The material will be used to make large format automotive cells that will be tested against otherwise identical cells made from virgin-sourced metals by cell technology developer C4V.

The contract from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is for the commercial demonstration of the technology.

Recycling Process

The first of ABTC’s recycling process loops is a mechanical process, which takes in non-electrically discharged batteries as assembled modules, cells, and battery materials and disassembles and separates these feedstocks into their individual components.

These separated components include material from the module (aluminum, iron/steel, and plastics), casing material from the cells (aluminum/iron/steel), substrate foils from the electrodes (aluminum and copper), dielectric separators, a liquid product consisting of liquid electrolyte and dissolved solids, and black mass.

The aluminum, copper, and iron/steel products are sold to the commodity scrap markets.

The liquid stream is processed and recycled by an inline water treatment system, with the treated water recycled.

The black mass is fed through ABTC’s chemical processing loop, which includes: going through acid dissolution, impurity removal, and selective extraction processes.

The ABTC recycling train generates four additional products: battery grade powders of nickel sulfate, cobalt sulfate, manganese sulfate, and lithium hydroxide.

The remaining brine consists primarily of counter-ions from the acid and base reagents used during the dissolution and extraction processes, which are regenerated back into new acid and base feedstocks to be reused in a closed loop fashion.

While these two loops are designed to operate in a complementary synergy with each other, they are also able to operate independently.