© Fraunhofer ISC

IDcy­cLIB: Inno­va­tion plat­form of a green, detectable and direct­ly recy­clable lithi­um-ion battery

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:

  1. “Green” bat­tery cells
    Water-based man­u­fac­tur­ing process­es for bat­tery elec­trodes and func­tion­al mate­ri­als (no sol­vents or haz­ardous process chemicals)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.