Direct Recycling of Blended Cathode Materials by Froth Flotation

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Department of Chemical Engineering


Direct Li-ion battery recycling involves separating cathode active materials in the solid phase while preserving their electrochemical performance. To reuse the recycled ones in new batteries, it is necessary to separate individual cathode components, which would typically occur prior to the rejuvenation and any compositional reformulation processes. Herein, a froth flotation process is developed to separate pristine lithium nickel–manganese–cobalt oxide (LiNi0.333Mn0.333Co0.333O2, NMC111) and lithium manganese oxide (LMO) materials. The flotation results show that with multiple stages of the separation processes, a satisfactory separation is achieved with 95% grade or above of NMC111 in the froth product and 95% grade of LMO in the tailing product. The electrochemistry results show that the flotation chemicals have negligible impact on the electrochemical performance of recycled active materials, whereas the NMC111 exhibits a minor capacity fade after being in contact with deionized water at 2% solid concentration. An improvement in both the rate and cycling performance is achieved at 10% solid concentration or higher. It is found that there is little compositional and structural change to the aqueous recycled NMC111 powders. An effective and low-cost separation method for direct recycling mixed cathode compositions is demonstrated.

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Energy Technology