As the world continues to run on electricity, batteries have become a commodity in the midst of modernization. The most common type of battery being used in the majority of electronic devices is lithium-ion. From smartphones to electric cars, the lithium-ion material battery is the safest, cheapest, and most low maintenance material there is.
Albeit batteries being recyclable, some industries are discouraged by the cost of the process. Recycling batteries require a lot of economical, technological, and logistical means to be carried out properly. It is a complex technical process that is often misunderstood.
American Manganese is one of the companies specializing in battery recycling. Their prime aim is to retrieve the raw elements that compose the battery so that it can be used again in the manufacture of new ones, thereby reducing procurement costs and industrial waste. They have developed their own system of this process which they patented under the name RecycLiCo.
“Our focus is on the cathode material and we've achieved up to a hundred percent recovery of lithium nickel manganese, cobalt and aluminum and reproduce a high purity product that we hope to reintegrate into remanufacturing the new Lithium-ion batteries,” says Zarko Meseldzija - Chief Technical Officer and Director of American Manganese.
The company has flaunted its edge of being the first and so far, the only patented process of recovering lithium-ion raw materials. According to their rough estimates, more than 100 million electric cars are about to be marketed in the next decade, this will amount to 2 million metric tons of lithium-ion batteries. Add in 22 battery factories to be built by 2028, and there will be an overwhelming amount of batteries that will come to exist, which makes recycling even more important.
Tesla has announced going cobalt-free and switching to a new lithium battery material, ditching the usual lithium-ion but rumors have circulated about Tesla having their EV batteries recycled by Kinsburksy Brothers - an industrial recycling company that process wholesome raw material recovery. According to Meseldzija, he isn’t entirely knowledgeable on the relations between the EV giant and the Kinsbursky company, nor the actual recycling process that the latter uses but he said that it might be more of “shredding” the battery cell into a fine powder and is focused more on cobalt recovery.
There are two different methods used in battery recycling so far.
The first is pyrometallurgy, which uses high temperatures to extract and purify metal compounds. It requires a lot of energy and releases a lot of toxic waste materials only to yield small amounts of cobalt.
Hydrometallurgy, however, involves using acids and other aqueous solutions to separate pure metals from their ores. This is by far a safer method and does not produce toxic waste materials.
This is something that should be of concern to companies that conduct battery recycling.
In the 2019 impact report of Tesla, it was vaguely stated that they do in fact conduct battery recycling on top of maximizing the power of every battery cell they use. It was also mentioned that they work with third-party recyclers but no name was specified. Talks of having a recycling facility in one of the Tesla Gigafactories are also making quite the buzz in the industry. It seems as though Tesla is paving the way for the ultimate realization of sustainable transport.
The core of battery recycling as an industry is rooted in defective cells in emerging battery plants. There is a 30% chance of manufacturing defects in new battery plants during the production process. With this, manufacturers can recycle these defective cells and break them down again into the raw materials instead of outsourcing battery cell parts. This way, battery recycling industries do not have to wait several years for devices to deteriorate and finally dispose of their batteries before their work can begin.