Most people will agree that while electric cars and renewable technology is great, a big problem is the huge amount of ugly unsustainable mining that’s needed for batteries. Digging the material out of the ground is very carbon intensive, dirty and sometimes downright toxic. So anything that promises to provide a decent recycling route gets our vote. Now a clever company based out of the US has come up with a new recycling technology they claim can recover up to 98% of critical Lithium Ion battery materials.
Ascend Elements manages this cool trick by using what they call Hydro-to-Cathode process. Not only does this shredding and solvent based process consume 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s also much more efficient than the traditional pyrometallurgy method, which recyles a battery by burning it up. Basically it can provide up to a 98% recovery rate, at a 99% purity level.
The cool thing about this new process is the fact that the cathode material which is recovered can be repeatedly recycled over many battery generations. This is because it’s taken back to the atomic level, without the impurities which could degrade subsequent recycling. Of course a Lithium Ion battery is much more than just the cathode and anode material, but the company says that these two components are the most important parts of every battery.
The company has a pilot plant already running, and is just about to ramp up a larger facility in Georgia, USA. The new plant will be able to recycle 30,000 metric tons of battery scrap each year, which is enough to produce 70,000 new EV batteries. Ascend Elements has signed up some pretty impressive partners. Honda USA, Jaguar Land Rover, and Korean giant SK Inc have all invested in the business, which is not a bad start. If this scales properly, it could be a game changing tech for the renewables sector.