Development of an in-house recycling process of spent Li-ion batteries: alternatives to established recycling options in compliance with legal and safety requirements

In a cooperation with KYBURZ we give scientific support to the development of a small-scale pilot plant for the recycling of spent LiFePO4 (LPF) batteries. This type of batteries contains valuable materials such as copper, aluminum, transition metal oxides and lithium salts that can be recovered. KYBURZ integrates this type of batteries to manufacture among other types the electric tricycles used by the Swiss postal services for deliveries.

According to the Swiss regulation, it is mandatory for manufactures and importers of batteries to pay an advance-recycling fee and guarantee a proper disposal of the batteries. Thus, KYBURZ plans to establish its own in-house recycling process. This process is both environmentally friendly and cost-efficient in compliance with legal and safety requirements in Switzerland. The role of our group at Empa in the project focus on the chemical characterization of the recovered materials, assessment of environmental impacts and safety implementation of the treatment process. Currently, various dismantling and pre-processing steps of spent Li-ion batteries have been tested at lab scale and the recovered materials have been analyzed and characterized (in particular graphite and metal oxides using EDS, SEM and ICP). Furthermore, the risk of emissions during the recycling process are being assessed.

Figure: Discharging and dismantling of a spent LPF battery

Figure: Recovered materials: a) Aluminum foil b) Copper foil c) Graphite d) Metal Oxide

See also:

Rolf Widmer
Technology & Society Laboratory
Lerchenfeldstrasse 5
9014 St. Gallen
Tel. +41 58 765 78 63

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