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Direct Recycling of Materials

Recycling materials back to their original purpose without destroying their chemical structure.

Direct recycling is the recovery, regeneration, and reuse of battery components directly without breaking down the chemical structure. As a method used to recycle lithium-ion batteries, direct recycling has generally been less studied than hydrometallurgical or pyrometallurgical processes. ReCell is working to drive the development of new technologies for direct recycling and focuses on generating as much value as possible from the components inside of a battery. It is important to design all down-stream processing and material recovery sequences in a way that preserves integrity, assures high salvage rate, and yields high purity materials.

The research in this focus area centers around the following themes:

  • Electrolyte Recovery: Investigate methods that allow the valuable lithium salts and organic electrolyte solvents to be recovered from spent batteries.

  • Electrode Separation and Recovery: Separate mixtures of electrode materials using techniques based on their unique properties, such as hydrophobicity, density, and magnetic susceptibility.

  • Binder Removal: Determine the most effective method to remove the binder holding electrode particles together with minimal damage to the particles’ performance so that costly after-treatment processes are not required.

  • Cathode Relithiation: Develop an energy-efficient process to directly regenerate cycled, degraded cathode active particles (LCO, LMO, NCM, NCA, and their mixtures) to revive their high electrochemical performance.

  • Graphite Recovery: Recover and upcycle spent graphite anode material through surface purification, such that beneficial SEI components are retained while performance-inhibiting species are selectively removed.

  • Cathode Upcycling and Impurity Impact: Upgrade obsolete cathode chemistries to those the battery industry is currently using. Understand how impurities generated during processing (e.g., Cu, Al, Fe, etc.) impact material performance.

Learn more about the individual projects in these areas in our Quarterly Reports and Publications.

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