ACE Green Recycling (ACE) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to further develop and optimise ACE’s environment friendly and low cost lithium-ion battery recycling technology for recycling of graphite, lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) and other cathode active materials. This collaboration advances DOE’s deep commitment and investments in the development of sustainable, cost effective and environment friendly lithium-ion battery recycling in the United States.
Located in Golden, Colorado, NREL is a DOE national laboratory focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. As part of this mission, NREL is committed to the development and deployment of key breakthroughs for battery recycling technologies.
The volume of LFP batteries based electric vehicles is primed to grow significantly in coming years with major automobile manufacturers like Tesla and Ford starting to switch to LFP from Nickel and Cobalt based batteries due to its lower cost. However, LFP battery recycling is seen by the industry as a particularly challenging problem due to the difficulty in extracting its valuable materials (lithium and graphite) profitably.
“Current hydrometallurgical recycling methods focus on extracting high-value materials from LFP batteries, such as lithium and copper,” said Andrew Colclasure, NREL. “To encourage a more holistic approach to recycling, we must demonstrate efficient processes that also recycle low-value materials such as graphite and iron-phosphate into commercially viable products. We look forward to working alongside our industry partners to advance low-cost recycling technologies to make the process more economical and environmentally friendly.”
ACE has already developed its proprietary technology for recycling LFP batteries at bench scale which is currently undergoing commercial scaleup. Under this research agreement, NREL will assist ACE in evaluating commercialisation of this process to recycle LFP batteries and to upcycle graphite to battery grade.
“We are excited to work with the talented team at NREL in our journey to commercialise our lithium-ion battery recycling technology and help the United States move towards sustainable domestic battery materials supply chain,” said ACE Green’s Co-founder and CTO, Vipin Tyagi.
As part of the agreement, NREL will provide its capabilities in cell production, modelling, analysis and other advanced tools to demonstrate ACE technology’s value proposition with primary work to be conducted at NREL’s facility in Colorado. Overall, the project aims to identify optimal recycling parameters for LFP and graphite that will maximise performance and lifetime requirements of batteries made from recycled materials using ACE’s technology as compared to the ones made from virgin materials.
The potential upcycling of graphite obtained from ACE’s technology can help solve the dependence of more than 60,000 MT of graphite electrodes that the United States currently imports while deepening its technological and engineering leadership and reducing its dependence on foreign supply chains. NREL and ACE’s collaboration is in line with the goals of the recently announced Inflation Reduction Act which amongst other key goals, aims to support localisation of supply chain of critical materials within the United States.