Students at Chemical Engineering at Michigan Technological University have found a way to use mining technologies to economically recycle the various components of batteries. Housings, metal foils and lithium metal oxides can be returned to the manufacturer and used for the production of new batteries.
The basic idea to use mining technologies for recycling lithium-ion batteries came from Lei Pan, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Michigan Technological University. He assumed that the same technologies used to separate metal and ore could also be applied to spent batteries. After an introduction to mineral processing, the students were free to experiment in the laboratory.
“We saw the opportunity to use an existing technology to tackle new challenges,” says Pan. “We use standard gravity separators to separate copper from aluminium and we use foam flotation to recover critical materials such as graphite, lithium and cobalt. These mining technologies are the cheapest and the infrastructure to implement them already exists.”
The team and its research project took part in the People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) competition in Washington, D.C., last April and received high acclaim. The AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) Youth Council on Sustainable Science and Technology (YCOSST) even announced that the team will receive the YCOSST P3 Award.
Image Source: Michigan Technological University | mtu.edu