Technological sovereignty and the safeguarding of jobs in Germany, the sustainable rethinking and redirection in the use of raw materials — the most efficient possible use and resource-conserving utilisation concepts — are major challenges facing the industrial sectors in Europe and worldwide. In particular, the shift away from fossil-fuelled mobility to sustainable electromobility based on regenerative energy sources has intensified the discussion about the resource requirements for the batteries needed for this. This is precisely where the IDcycLIB joint project comes in with forward-looking concepts.
As electric vehicle registrations rise, sustainable traction battery manufacturing and recycling are gaining traction — literally. Thanks to coordinated joint research efforts, it should also be possible to produce battery cells in Germany and Europe in the future. Against this background, cell manufacturing processes must be designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible, and battery materials must be recovered and reused as efficiently as possible. Only in this way can battery-based electromobility become truly future-proof and sustainable. The know-how for this can also become a decisive competitive advantage in the battery market if — as expected — the required resources become increasingly scarce and thus more expensive with simultaneously increasing demand.
At the present time, however, relatively little is known about used traction batteries, i.e. those installed in vehicles, with regard to their respective components, their cell chemistry and their condition — a proverbial black box. This makes recycling and reuse difficult and expensive, and thus economically unattractive. The recycling capacities available to date are correspondingly low. In addition, cell and battery concepts have not been well equipped for digitalization to date. This is now to change with the IDcycLIB (Innovation Platform of a Green, Detectable and Directly Recyclable Lithium-Ion Battery) joint project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
Five pillars for a sustainable and economical battery cycle
In the IDcycLIB project consortium, 12 partners from industry and research have joined forces to make a coherent sustainable and industrially suitable concept for battery cell production, recycling and reprocessing transferable. The concept is based on five pillars:
- “Green” battery cells
Water-based manufacturing processes for battery electrodes and functional materials (no solvents or hazardous process chemicals)
- Design for Recycling
Battery cells should already be easy and automated to disassemble due to their design and the nature of their components; the functional materials can be sorted easily and cost-effectively and used for
be processed for reuse in new batteries.
- Detectability/ Battery Pass/ Digital Twin
The cell components are coded with tamper-proof particulate markers that can be easily read. This enables automated pre-sorting according to cell chemistry and components, simplifies separation and preparation processes, and digitally records material flows.
- Efficient recycling processes
Gentle water-based electrohydraulic disintegration and material-sensitive sorting with innovative centrifuge technology ensure high purity of the recovered material fractions for subsequent regeneration.
- Sustainability assessment during development
By means of Life Cycle Assessment and Life Cycle Costing, the derivation of parameterized models as well as the development of suitable software tools (LCA Calculator, data exchange platform) for the evaluation and control of digitally recorded material flows, the way to a sustainable development and recycling of batteries can be paved.
With these five pillars, the IDcycLIB joint project aims to build and test the tools that will enable the sustainable manufacture and use and economic recycling of battery cells and digital data management in the future. The resource-saving circular economy thus becomes not only possible but also economically attractive for lithium-ion batteries (LIB). In addition, interfaces for future innovations — e.g. digital recording of the cell condition — are also being created.
IDcycLIB is thus expected to contribute to reducing supply risks and improving the environmental footprint and economic viability of LIB.