Assessment of the Long-term Viability of Technologies to Recycle Spent Lithium-ion Batteries

Assessment of the Long-term Viability of Technologies to Recycle Spent Lithium-ion Batteries

Recovery of essential raw materials from used batteries is now required to reduce long-term demand for basic raw materials. Many procedures have been presented, which include a mix of mechanical and thermal pre-treatment, followed by hydrometallurgical or pyrometallurgical processing. All of these technologies have advantages and disadvantages in terms of applicability, safety, environmental impact, eventual component recovery efficiency, and economic issues.

The evaluation of the sustainability of the proposed technologies is critical in selecting the most appropriate approaches capable of supporting material supply for batteries, as well as identifying the major solutions to optimize end-of-life management strategies for LIBs in the context of a circular economy. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was designed, on the other hand, to evaluate commercially mature technology.

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We have discussed here the sustainability of 33 various technologies for LIBs recovery that are available in the literature, even if they have just been created at the laboratory level using a screening strategy prior to LCA analysis. The ESCAPE (Evaluation of Sustainability of Material Substitution Using CArbon footPrint by a Simplified Approach) tool, which is based on the computation of embodied energy and carbon footprint, is utilized for this purpose.

According to the available LCA data, chemicals and ultrapure water usage are the most energy-intensive process drivers, demonstrating that pyrometallurgy can reduce carbon footprint and energy consumption when compared to hydrometallurgy. Finally, using the ESCAPE index, it is demonstrated that various technologies, such as employing industrial water instead of ultrapure water and/or recycling the chemicals used in leaching phases, can be improved. It is established that the ESCAPE tool may be used to support eco-design methods in order to facilitate understanding of the environmental implications of proposed LIBs recovery technologies and to focus research on the most promising ones.

Rapid growth in the market for electric vehicles is imperative, to meet global targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality in urban centers, and meeting the needs of consumers, with whom electric vehicles are increasingly popular. However, the increasing number of electric vehicles poses a significant waste-management difficulty for recyclers at the end of life. Nonetheless, used batteries may present an opportunity as manufacturers seek strategic elements and critical materials for important components in the construction of electric vehicles: recycled lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles could provide a significant secondary supply of materials.

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