RecycLiCo upcycles lithium-ion cathodes
Upgrades black mass into ready-to-use NMC-622 material Metal Tech News – August 25, 2021
Last updated 8/31/2021 at 3:13pm
Beyond simply recycling lithium-ion battery materials to be fed into supply chains, American Manganese Inc. is demonstrating that its RecycLiCo process can upcycle the black mass from spent batteries into new cathode material ready to go directly back in new cells.
In the lithium-ion battery recycling process, black mass is a powdery material that is produced by crushing or shredding the electrodes after the casing and other ancillary parts have been removed from spent batteries. This black powder contains the critical battery materials – lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, graphite, copper, and aluminum.
The cathodes in typical lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide (NMC) batteries powering electric vehicles are made with some combination of nickel, manganese, and cobalt in a ratio designated in the name of the battery. For example, the previously preferred NMC-111 batteries had equal parts nickel, manganese, and cobalt in the cathode, whereas the cathode of a newer generation NMC-622 battery is made up of 60% nickel, 20% manganese, and 20% cobalt.
By dissolving cathode material from spent lithium-ion batteries or scrap from the manufacturing process, American Manganese had previously demonstrated that its patented RecycLiCo process could produce greater than 99.9% pure cathode material – with exactly the same nickel-manganese-cobalt ratio as the input material.
The latest round of testing shows this process can be fine-tuned to produce a ready-to-use cathode material with the exact ratios required by a battery manufacturer.
In laboratory tests, the RecycLiCo process upcycled black mass produced from end-of-life lithium-ion batteries into NMC-622 cathode precursor material.
This black mass was dissolved into a leach solution that retained 99% of the lithium, nickel, manganese, and cobalt that was in the black mass. This solution was then adjusted to precipitate out the metals in the exact ratio needed for the cathodes in NMC-622 lithium-ion batteries.
American Manganese says scanning electron microscopy imagry shows the RecycLiCo NMC-622 product shares the same high-quality technical specifications – such as particle morphology, size, and distribution – found in conventional lithium-ion battery cathode precursor materials produced from mined raw materials.
"We have been focused on the upcycling of waste lithium-ion battery cathode materials to create useful, high-value products and I'm proud to demonstrate our processing efficiency to industry leaders that recognize the potential benefits of integrating RecycLiCo alongside their facilities," said American Manganese President and CEO Larry Reaugh. "Our continued success in upcycling EV battery production scrap and black mass broadens our business strategy and potential for strategic partners."
Earlier this year, American Manganese announced an agreement to develop a RecycLiCo cathode recycling facility alongside Italvolt's 45 gigawatt-hour lithium-ion battery factory in Italy.
More information on this collaboration and Canadian government support provide to American Manganese can be read at Canada supports RecycLiCo pilot in Italy in the August 18, 2021 edition of Metal Tech News.