The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), an organization that represents energy storage manufacturers across the U.S. Under the memorandum, the two organizations will cooperate on developing recycling standards for lithium-ion batteries based on their design.
Today no such standards exist, despite the rapid growth of lithium-ion batteries worldwide and the emergence of a wide range of recycling methods. During this time, battery manufacturers have primarily focused on producing batteries cheaper and more efficiently, however experts say now is the time to more seriously consider what happens to batteries at the end of their life.
"If we don't innovate to address end-of-life challenges and consider environmental impacts as more and more batteries are being produced, then we're going to have a big problem ten years from now," said Jonathan Stewart, industry director of NEMA's Utility Products and Systems division.
Variations in battery designs, materials and chemistries, as well as recycling methods, can all affect recyclability. This makes the process of developing a common set of standards extremely complex. Argonne scientists and NEMA experts will explore these complexities under their memorandum with the aim of identifying standards manufacturers and recyclers can use to assess the amount of extractable and recyclable material in various battery systems.
"Standards can give recyclers a baseline for how much material, and in turn how much revenue, they can expect to recover from a battery. They can also help manufacturers understand what materials and designs are likely to be more recyclable, which can inform their research and development," said Jeff Spangenberger, the Materials Recycling R&D group lead at Argonne and director of the ReCell Center, a battery recycling R&D center led by Argonne and funded by Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Vehicle Technologies Office.
The development of a standard will require the participation of many stakeholders. Argonne will work to involve many of the organizations they already work with. This includes those involved in the ReCell Center.
"Our decades of expertise in battery research and the specialized tools we have to solve problems in this space are what make us a good partner in this endeavor," said Spangenberger. "We're excited to integrate our knowledge with NEMA's industry expertise to create a more robust battery recycling market here in the U.S."