AAT World

Battery recycling method promises higher yields

A new battery recycling technique promises to extract metals with a resale value 10 times higher than obtained by current methods, helping to solve the looming problem of battery waste.
The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) at a news conference on Jan. 18 announced the results of a collaboration to create a better recycling method for lithium-ion batteries.
The EPA estimates that about 1,100 tonnes of lithium-ion batteries would be discarded in Taiwan annually by 2025, as electronics and electric vehicles become more widespread.
Current processing capacity among the nation’s six facilities is 2,200 tonnes, more than sufficient to cover the expected increase.
However, the facilities use a relatively crude process of crushing the batteries and sorting whatever components possible to export or sell to steelmakers, fetching about NT$80 per kilogram.
The EPA and ITRI saw an opportunity to extract more value, given increasing demand for metals such as cobalt, lithium, nickel, manganese and copper for use in lithium-ion batteries.
Over three years, they developed a method to extract higher-purity cobalt sulfate and cobalt oxide from recycled batteries.
The materials can be reused in new batteries, alloys, pigments and more, capable of fetching NT$800 per kilogram.
In the new method, discarded batteries are first drained, dismantled and crushed, then impurities, such as iron and aluminum, are removed through a specially developed precision method and further processed to create cobalt oxide, ITRI researcher Lin Hsin-jung said.
Researchers have applied for a patent in the hopes that facilities could soon use the highly energy-efficient technology at scale, Lin added.
As the method does not use traditional pyrometallurgy to melt the materials down, it produces less pollution, EPA Recycling Fund Management Board Executive Director Wang Yueh-bin said.
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