LIBREC Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling

This project aims to develop and optimise an existing recycling process for used lithium-ion batteries (LithoRec II) to achieve material recycling rates of over 90%.

Factsheet

  • Lead school School of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Institute Intelligente industrielle Systeme (I3S)
  • Research unit I3S / Prozessoptimierung in der Fertigung
  • Funding organisation Innosuisse
  • Duration (planned) 01.11.2021 - 01.11.2023
  • Project management Prof. Dr. Axel Fuerst
  • Head of project Prof. Dr. Axel Fuerst
  • Partner EMPA Eidg. Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
    Switzerland Innovation Park Biel-Bienne
    LIBREC AG
  • Keywords Lithium-ion batteries; Recycling; Circular Economy; E-mobility

Situation

E-mobility is booming but technically viable and cost-effective solutions for the recycling of drive system batteries still need to be found in Europe. Over 60,000 tonnes of batteries will be imported into Switzerland by 2030. The scientific and technical challenges lie in improving the state of the art to achieve the required level of efficiency and the 90% material recycling rate.

Course of action

The Innosuisse project LIBREC was launched on 2 November 2021 and will run for 24 months. As well as Bern University of Applied Sciences, the Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne (SIPBB) and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) are also participating in the project. The implementation partner is the newly founded company LIBREC AG which will open and operate the recycling plant in the near future. BFH is responsible for developing the process for electrolyte and graphite recycling. Lab-scale plants will also be set up at BFH and at the premises of a third-party provider where experimental testing will be carried out. BFH will also develop the simulation solution and optimise the processes of the future recycling plant. Empa will carry out the LCA based on the simulation data. SIPBB is responsible for developing the processes for the characterisation, discharge and dismantling of batteries.

Result

The LIBREC project aims to significantly improve recycling processes for lithium-ion batteries. The following process steps will be developed/enhanced: • Characterisation, discharge and dismantling of batteries using the latest algorithms, partial automation and lean principles. This will significantly reduce the cost of the most labour-intensive stage enabling cost-effective operation of the recycling plant. • The liquid electrolyte of lithium-ion batteries is a huge challenge for recycling. This complicates the separation of the individual components and consists of combustible substances that are harmful to health which is why it must be completely removed. This means the solvents in the electrolyte must be safely vaporised and condensed and broken down into their individual components. • Graphite – which is the active material of the anode in conventional lithium-ion batteries – is either burned or used as a reduction agent in metallurgy in the current recycling process. By removing the binder, the graphite will be separated from the cathode’s active materials and recycled as material fraction. In addition to improvements to the recycling process, the project also aims to develop a simulation of the recycling plant with subsequent lifecycle analysis (LCA). The simulation aims to calculate the plant’s operating costs and optimise processes. The LCA will compare the environmental impact of the recycled materials with that of primary materials.