Lithium-ion batteries have gained wide acceptance in the renewable space, but an often-cited short-coming of the technology, still, is its recyclability. But last week, Farasis Energy sent word that its Direct Recycling process of lithium-ion batteries was almost ready for primetime.
Farasis Energy has been developing its Direct Recycling process for used lithium-ion batteries for about 10 years now. The recycling method enables direct recovery and reuse of valuable materials from these batteries and from cell manufacturing scrap. Most notably, Farasis has been able to successfully demonstrate that recycled cathode material can be recovered from whole used cells or battery manufacturing scrap and then integrated into new cells.
Key factor: Directly recovering the active cathode material powder retains the high value of the original engineered cathode material – one of the most expensive components in cell production – without the need for re-synthesis. This results in both cost and energy savings. When applied to cell manufacturing, scrap can improve the cathode powder utilization efficiency to over 99 percent.
Farasis has shown that cells containing up to 25 percent recycled cathode material can exhibit equivalent performance to cells made from pure virgin cathode material. Internal testing and external validation of sample 2Ah cells by a US-DOE National Laboratory have shown that even after 600 charge/discharge cycles the cells containing recycled cathode continue to perform similarly to their pristine counterparts.
The Direct Recycling process thus makes it possible to significantly reduce the usage and quantity of new cathode active material without compromising the performance of the newly produced batteries. At the same time, it contributes to a more environmentally friendly and sustainable method of cell manufacturing while reducing the overall CO2 footprint.
“Our goal is to develop a closed-loop value chain of the battery throughout its lifecycle – from design to end of life management,” says Dr. Keith Kepler, CTO and co-founder of Farasis. “We have made significant progress toward this goal with the validation of our direct recycling process.”
Recent advances in its Direct Recycling process development will enable Farasis to implement economically feasible recovery of the most valuable active materials from cells, batteries and battery manufacturing scrap. The next step is to validate certain cathode recycling process capabilities on a much larger scale, with the aim of enabling Farasis to begin recycling the cathode electrode scrap that is produced during cell manufacturing.
Farasis has two U.S. patents and multiple research grants, including a $1.76 million development contract awarded by the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC).
Another key is their method is less energy intense: Most commercial recyclers of lithium-ion batteries focus on either high-temperature smelting or chemical dissolution of the carefully-engineered cathode material, and recovering only the individual metals. These recycling techniques are energy intensive and impart a significant negative impact to the environment.
The Direct Recycling process enables complete recovery of the high-grade cathode material in its original crystalline form, which means the active material for cathodes is recovered intact and can be used directly again in the production of new lithium-ion cells.