On 6th July 2020, the Applied Materials Chemistry Group hosted a webinar on GoToWebinar, focusing on the challenges in the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. The event was attended by around 180 people. The webinar was structured such that three experts in the field gave talks covering specific challenges within the field, and laid out challenges for applied materials chemists to uptake and participate within. The event culminated in an audience-lead panel discussion, whereby the audience input questions into the questions function on GoToWebinar, which were then put to the panel and answered by one or more of the experts.
Dr Evi Petavratzi
Evi is a Senior Mineral Commodity Expert at the British Geological Survey (BGS). At BGS, her research is in the field of security of supply and the circular economy, which in recent years has a focus on decarbonisation and resource management. She is interested to identify routes to the sustainable and responsible provision of raw materials, whether from primary or secondary sources.
In her talk, Evi gave an overview of mineralogical challenges that are arising or have arisen as a direct result in the projected increase in LiB use for the EV market. She discussed how Li, Co, C and Ni are key raw materials for securing the future demand for EVs and will also discuss supply chain resilience and the need for recycling to satisfy future demand. Evi’s talk opened the event and was gratefully received by the audience, reflected by a high volume of questions that were directed towards her during the panel discussion.
Dr Linda Gaines
Linda is an Environmental Scientist/Systems Analyst in Argonne National Laboratory’s Energy Systems division, where she examines energy use and the flow of materials and processes in the energy production cycle. She has written a series of handbooks assessing energy and material flows in petroleum refining, organic chemicals, and copper industries that provided background for studies of technical and institutional issues involved in recycling energy-intensive materials. Linda has also examined the costs and impacts on energy use and the environment of production and recycling of advanced-design automobiles, trucks, trains, and batteries. More recently, her research has focused on analyzing process options for recycling of lithium-ion batteries.
In her talk, Linda spoke about ReCell, which is a research centre in America dedicated to the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. She shone a light on the different types of recycling, including pyrometallurgy and direct recycling, and more importantly discussed individual difficulties with the direct recycling processes and what areas require further research. Examples included relithiation of cathodes, electrolyte recovery and pre-processing techniques that require further consideration.
Professor Andrew Abbott
Andy is Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Leicester. His research focusses on material processing and circular economy. He is part of the Faraday Institution ReLiB project (relib.org.uk) developing new methodologies for recycling lithium ion batteries. He is also interested in the topic of design for recycle.
Andy’s talk focused on design for recycle. Within his talk he demonstrated how differences in battery design present challenges in stripping modules and battery packs apart into constituent components from the beginning. Adhesives, glues and other materials to build batteries often require very specific conditions to unravel and this is one preventative factor in battery recycling. His talk focused on aspects such as three phase boundaries, mechanical delamination and wettability of metal oxides and binders as examples of projects to advance design for recycle.
This being the first panel discussion held, it was a little bit of an unknown as to how it would work. It was decided to be an audience-lead discussion, whereby the hope was that the audience would post questions through the anonymous questions function, which would then be fielded by Ed. Indeed, this process worked fairly well: multiple questions from a range of participants were asked, and on the whole the quality of questions was reasonably high and were questions that our experts were happy to answer very well. Among the discussion several topics were raised, ranging from transport of battery waste to fire potential of batteries, through to development of artificial resource markets and ethical impacts of battery materials. There were also many technical questions asked by our audience, who were interested in many of the research aspects of direct recycling and designing for recycle. Overall it was felt by all experts that the session proceeded very well.
Summary and Legacy
In sum this was the first webinar of the 2020 series by AMCG. The topic was evidently a topic of interest, evidenced in aprt by the number of participants in attendance on the day. The quality of the speakers was very high as they were all known figures in their field, and they worked together to build a very good picture of the challenges that we are faced as a society as we transfer over to a more electrified society. The audience played a very important and active role in leading the questions and answer session.
Already from the event an application is being prepared to bid for outreach funding for developing a battery recycling teaching materials pack for primary education. Sue Andrews from AMCG is already building a trusted network of partners to feed her ideas through and if successful will build a set of recycling resources to educate young people on this future challenge.
Dr Edward Randviir
Manchester Metropolitan University
AMCG committee member