The US Department of Energy has granted $9.5 million to a company called Toxco to give lithium battery recycling a good boost. Toxoc, North America’s leading battery recycler, will utilize the funds in directions to further develop an existing facility in Lancaster, OH, that already recycles the lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries used in present hybrid-electric vehicles.
Toxco preparing for the future:
The Anaheim-based company has been in the business of recycling single-charge and rechargeable lithium batteries used in electronic devices and industrial application since 1992. Toxco’s DOC grant gives great hope for a better future as the large-scale recycling capability is being developed almost a decade before it is actually going to be required. There are considerably few plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles at present but the US is hoping to see a million plug-in hybrids by 2015.
Procedure to recycle lithium batteries:
The procedure of recycling lithium batteries starts with collection of old batteries that are sent into a hammer mill where they are shredded, allowing components made of aluminum, cooper and steel to be separated easily. In case of larger batteries that may still hold some charge, a slightly different technique is applied. The batteries are first cryogenically frozen with liquid nitrogen, and later hammered and shredded. In the next step the battery chambers are flooded in a caustic bath that dissolves lithium salts, which are filtered out and used to produce lithium carbonate. Cobalt is extracted from the remaining sludge, which is brought into use for preparing battery electrodes.
The DOE grant will help Toxco transfer the Trail recycling process to its Ohio operations, laying the foundation for an advanced lithium-battery recycling plant that can develop to put up expected growth in the US electric-vehicle market.