Improved Separation between Recycled Anode and Cathode Materials from Li-Ion Batteries Using Coarse Flake Particle Flotation

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Chemical Engineering


Separation between two recycled electrode active materials from spent Li-ion batteries by a conventional froth flotation method has been challenging due to similarity in their surface hydrophobicity. In this study, a new coarse flake particle flotation technology has been developed to separate the electrode active materials from Li-ion batteries. The new process separates the recycled electrode flake particles effectively at a size range of 212-850 μm by taking advantage of a significant difference in densities between the anode flake materials and cathode flake materials. At a feed size of 212 μm or less, a fraction of recycled cathode particles is floated in the froth layers resulting in a loss of cathode materials in the sink product. At a feed size of 850 μm or above, a small fraction of anode flakes becomes non-floatable, resulting in a decrease in the grade of cathode materials in the sink product. The mechanism has been investigated by induction time measurements, bubble-flake detachment, contact angle measurements, and force analysis. The anode flakes are more hydrophobic than cathode flakes, which is consistent with the result obtained from induction time measurements. A force analysis reveals that the critical size for electrode flake particles being attached to air bubbles varies with advancing contact angle and density. Maintaining a desirable feed size is essential to achieve an optimum separation performance. In this regard, a flotation column is superior to mechanical flotation cells in minimizing size reduction during the flotation process. Lab-scale column flotation trials showed that a good separation between anode and cathode flake particles has been achieved by column flotation with 98-99% purity of cathode flake materials in the sink product at a recovery rate of 96-99%. The present study demonstrates a new process in separating two electrode flake materials from spent Li-ion batteries.

Publication Title

ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering