As electric vehicles become more popular, they’re posing a new environmental challenge. The lithium-ion batteries in electric cars are expensive to manufacture and highly polluting if not recycled in a responsible way.
Now, the researchers at Michigan Technological University (MUT) have made a pivotal discovery that removes one of the biggest hurdles standing in the way of making recycling lithium-ion batteries economically viable.
With the increase in sales of electric vehicles, the number of batteries that will reach the end of their useful life in the coming years is going to be very large. Therefore, recycling is going to be a very important factor in the future. Because, in less than a decade, researchers estimate that each year, two million tons of lithium-ion batteries will be removed from electric vehicles at the end of their useful life.
The MUT team has developed an innovative process for separating the valuable materials that make up the cathode – a battery’s positively charged electrode – for reuse. The study seeks to make use of a technique commonly used in the mining industry to separate and purify ores. Called froth flotation, the process separates materials in a flotation tank based on whether they repel water and float or absorb water and sink.
But this approach does not easily translate to the world of lithium batteries because the materials that make up the cathode component, such as the commonly used lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC111) and...
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