First national lithium-ion battery recycling R&D center launched

With lithium-ion battery technology expanding across the world, through electronics, Electric Vehicles and stationary storage, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have launched the  first lithium-ion battery recycling center, called the ReCell Center, at Argonne National Laboratory. DOE says the center will help the U.S. grow a globally competitive recycling industry and reduce the country’s reliance on foreign sources of battery materials.

According to DOE, recycled materials from lithium-ion batteries can be reused in new batteries, reducing production costs by 10 to 30 percent, which could help lower the overall cost of EV batteries to DOE’s goal of $80 per kilowatt-hour. 

The center will focus on four key research areas to enable profitable lithium-ion battery recycling for industry adoption (see infographic below): 

  • A direct cathode recycling focus will develop recycling processes that generate products that go directly back into new batteries without the need for costly reprocessing;
  • A focus to recover other materials will work to create technologies that cost effectively recycle other battery materials, providing additional revenue streams;
  • Design for recycling will develop new battery designs optimized to make future batteries easier to recycle; and
  • Modeling and analysis tools will be developed and utilized to help direct an efficient path of R&D and to validate the work performed within the center.

University and national laboratory collaborators will use R&D tools at their home institutions to develop new methods for separating and reclaiming valuable materials from spent EV batteries. Researchers will then scale up the most promising technologies at the ReCell Center facilities located at Argonne, where industrial collaborators can explore the technologies and develop them further. The center will be a collaboration space for researchers from industry, academia and other government laboratories to use R&D tools not found at their own laboratories and to grow pre-commercial technologies.

“ReCell brings our national laboratories, the private sector and universities together to develop advanced technologies that safely and cost effectively recycle lithium-ion batteries,” said Daniel R Simmons, Assistant Secretary of DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). “This center will create jobs and create a national supply of lithium-based battery materials, as well as spur the adoption of an affordable electric vehicle economy.”

 “This is an exciting time as applications for energy storage continue to expand,” said Argonne Director Paul Kearns. “Together, the Energy Department and Argonne have made pivotal discoveries in advanced materials, chemistry, and engineering that have made batteries safer and longer-lasting. We are proud to pioneer the first scaleup and pilot test facilities to enable cost-effective battery recycling, helping to drive U.S. prosperity and security.”

“The ReCell Center will help expedite the pursuit to profitable lithium-ion battery recycling. It combines the nation’s leading experts and research tools from academia, industry and government laboratories to solve science challenges that have prevented the US from reaping the economic, environmental and security benefits that come with having a large commercial US-based lithium-ion recycling market,” said Jeff Spangenberger, director of the ReCell Center. 

The ReCell Center, DOE’s first advanced battery recycling research and development (R&D) initiative, is a collaboration between Argonne; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and several universities including Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of California at San Diego and Michigan Technological University. Collaborators from across the battery supply chain, including battery manufacturers, automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), recycling centers, battery lifecycle management services and material suppliers, are working with the center. The ReCell Center is supported by DOE with $15 million over three years and its work will include development of test beds and a process scale up facility at Argonne.

The center’s goal is to create profitable methods to dramatically improve recycling rates and improve national security by reducing a foreign reliance on supplies of critical battery materials such as lithium and cobalt. This will further the President’s Executive Order 13817, which identifies the need for “developing critical minerals recycling and reprocessing technologies” as part of a broader strategy to “ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” 

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