Battery Reuse and Recycling
As batteries proliferate in electric vehicles and stationary energy storage, NREL is exploring ways to increase the lifetime value of battery materials through reuse and recycling.
NREL research addresses challenges at the initial stages of material and product design to reduce the critical materials required in lithium-ion batteries. These batteries contain critical materials, such as cobalt, which are primarily mined or refined in geopolitically sensitive areas. NREL, in collaboration with other national labs, is working to reduce or replace the cobalt content while maintaining performance and safety.
In addition, NREL is identifying opportunities that could encourage battery repurposing. In many cases, batteries—especially in vehicles—are retired from their first use but can be repurposed for a secondary use, such as stationary storage.
Batteries can also be recycled, but some recycling processes require energy-intensive or environmentally damaging inputs. As part of the ReCell Center, NREL is working with Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to improve direct recycling of lithium-ion batteries, which uses less energy and captures more of the critical materials. NREL is evaluating cathode relithiation technologies, binder removal and recovery, and black mass purification and developing new thermal techniques to identify contaminants introduced from the direct recycling process.
To better understand the evolving battery market, NREL researchers developed the Lithium-Ion Battery Resource Assessment (LIBRA) model. LIBRA allows researchers to evaluate the economic viability of lithium-ion battery manufacturing, reuse, and recycling industries, highlighting global and regional impacts across interlinking supply chains.
Impacts of Solvent Washing on the Electrochemical Remediation of Commercial End-Of-Life Cathodes, ACS Applied Energy Materials (2020)