Researchers working on the Faraday Institution ReLiB (Recycling and Reuse of Li-ion Batteries) project have been developing the new facility, which represents an investment of around £590,000 from the University and the Faraday Institution.
It is hoped that the project will accelerate battery recycling research, allowing scientists and engineers to develop safe, economic and environmentally sound recycling routes that recover large volumes of valuable materials contained in batteries at the end of their first life. The facility will aim to ensure the country has sufficient capacity for battery recycling for electric vehicles (EVs) as their usage increases.
UK scientists in other Faraday Institution projects and beyond will be able to use the facility’s controlled environment to safely perform destructive tests of EV batteries, leading to better understanding of why they fail and how they can be recycled safely. The facility is EUCAR (European Council for Automotive R&D) 7 rated, meaning impact, fire and explosive battery failures can be studied safely.
One possible commercial method of EV battery recycling may involve their shredding followed by recovery of components including cobalt, nickel and lithium by physical, chemical or biochemical purification.
According to the University, larger volumes of shredded material will be available to researchers than previously possible working at lab scale. This material is reportedly being distributed to UK universities involved in the ReLiB project.
These include Leicester University, which is investigating mechanical and chemical separation techniques, and Edinburgh University, researching the use of bacteria to selectively leach high value metals.
At Birmingham, researchers in the School of Metallurgy and Minerals are investigating magnetic separation techniques and direct recycling of anode material, while scientists in the Chemistry Department are researching selective leaching low temperature regeneration and direct recycling of cathode materials as possible recycling methods.
“Increased battery recycling will satisfy the urgent imperative to reduce the amount of raw materials that need to be sourced to manufacture batteries for future EVs, so making better use of global resources and improving security of materials supply chains,” said Dr Paul Anderson, principal investigator of the Faraday Institution’s ReLiB project.
“The new facilities at the University of Birmingham will quickly become an invaluable resource for UK-based researchers, working on ReLiB and other projects, to accelerate our understanding of the underpinning scientific processes that will allow this to be achieved.”