Lithium Battery Recycling

Lithium battery recycling, equipment and machines to reduce environmental impact, risks and benefits of lithium batteries and how to recover the valuable materials contained inside

Lithium battery recycling, a type of rechargeable battery that uses lithium as its main element. This battery is widely used in various electronic devices, such as smartphones, laptops and electric vehicles. Their distinguishing feature lies in their ability to store more energy in a more compact space, compared to nickel-cadmium or lead-acid batteries. In addition, lithium batteries do not suffer from the 'memory effect' and enjoy a longer lifespan than other rechargeable batteries, allowing more recharging cycles. The potential of lithium batteries is undoubtedly considerable. However, it is essential to recognise that these batteries present some significant risks:

- Fire: lithium batteries can overheat and catch fire if damaged or subjected to excessive thermal stress;

- Explosion: in extreme cases, lithium batteries can explode due to the formation of gases inside the cell;

- Intoxication: if the battery ruptures, internal materials can leak out and cause irritation or intoxication;

- Environmental damage: lithium batteries can be harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly.

There are several developments underway to improve the performance of lithium batteries and make them safer. Some of the most important advances are:

  1.   Next-generation lithium-ion batteries: research is aiming to develop batteries with higher energy density, longer life and lower risk of fire and explosion.
  2.   Lithium-polymer batteries: they adopt a polymer as the electrolyte instead of the traditional liquid, giving them greater flexibility and greater resistance to liquid leakage.
  3.   Lithium-metal batteries: they use a metal instead of organic compounds as the anode, making them more efficient and having a higher energy density.
  4.   Experimentation with alternative materials: Graphene, nanotechnology and solid materials are currently being researched to improve the performance of lithium batteries, exploring new possibilities besides conventional materials.
  5.   Environmental management and recycling: significant efforts are underway to develop sustainable methodologies for the recycling and disposal of lithium batteries, in order to reduce the environmental impact associated with lithium batteries and recover the materials that make them up for reuse in the construction of new batteries as part of a circular process.

Stokkermill has been researching and developing solutions for battery module recycling for months, which includes the following technological steps:

lithium batteries materials
  1. Inertization of the battery
  2. Recovery of the gaseous fraction
  3. Recovery and separation of the metal, copper, aluminium fractions
  4. Black-mass recovery

The suitably dehydrated and inert black-mass will be destined for other chemical-physical treatment plants for the separation and recovery of raw materials: mainly lithium and cobalt.

Stokkermill's recycling solutions are designed to be efficient, economical and minimise the environmental impact of the technological process. Recycling batteries helps to preserve raw materials that are particularly significant and with a growing demand. Statistical sources show that, in the EU, the percentage share of full-electric vehicles will rise from the current 14% to 20% by the end of 2024; figures that once again confirm the need to make battery recycling processes increasingly efficient, economical and less impactful on the environment.