Worcester Polytechnic research team wins award from USABC for battery recycling process

An engineering research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts recently won a million-dollar contract from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) to develop an innovative process for recycling used Li-ion batteries.

The team, led by WPI professor Yan Wang, it created a patented closed-loop recycling process that works like this: the batteries are shredded and the materials are segregated. After that, the team dissolves the cathode powders. They adjust the chemical makeup of the solution and use it to create new cathode materials for new batteries. The process also recycles steel, plastic and graphites.

The process was originally developed for batteries with more cobalt, but as the industry moves away from that material, the new funding will allow the team to finesse the process toward cathode powders with higher nickel formulations.

The team wants to show that they can make nickel-rich cathode powders that are just as as viable as commercial, non-recycled powder. They also plan to research the effects of various anode materials such as silicon, lithium and titanium dioxide on the recycling process.

“WPI is the first and only university to be granted an award from the USABC,” Wang said. “The consortium’s funding usually goes to industry, because the focus is always on innovations that can be commercialized and used by the automotive industry. The USABC and the OEMs have been very helpful to us as we have worked to perfect and commercialize our process, because they see this as a viable solution to their growing end-of-life battery problem.”

As in the original USABC-funded project, the work of making and testing new automotive batteries using the high-nickel cathode powders produced by Wang’s team will be subcontracted to A123 Systems and Battery Resourcers, a company that has licensed WPI’s patented Li-ion battery recycling process.

 

Source: Worcester Polytechnic Institute