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Battery Recycling on an Industrial Scale

ImpulsTec's continuously operating shock wave shredding system recovers valuable raw materials from spent lithium-ion batteries of electric cars on an industrial scale.
ImpulsTec's continuously operating shock wave shredding system recovers valuable raw materials from spent lithium-ion batteries of electric cars on an industrial scale.
© ImpulsTec

ImpulsTec´s shock wave process allows to recycle valuable raw materials from lithium-ion batteries which are then used for podution of new batteries.

ImpulsTec, a company based in Radebeul, has succeeded in recycling used batteries from electric cars with a continuously operating shock wave system and making the valuable raw materials usable again. Almost all components can be recovered from old lithium-ion batteries. The recycled raw materials and functional materials can then be fed back into production to make new batteries. The first shock wave plant has already been sold, the construction of further plants is in full swing.

How the recycling technology works

Shock wave shredding enables valuable industrial materials to be mechanically exposed and enriched for more efficient recycling processes.
The pre-discharged battery cells to be treated are placed into a shredding container filled with an aqueous medium by means of conventional conveyor technology. There the actual treatment of the material takes place.

At least four parallel high-voltage electrodes cyclically generate shock waves in the comminution container. These intense shock waves hit the battery cells and cause the cell housings to open. The advantages of the process: It takes place in a liquid comminution medium. As a result, the escaping electrolyte is passivated during further treatment, no fire hazard can occur and no dangerous dust fractions containing cobalt are produced.

By further treatment with shock waves, the opened battery cells can be broken down into cathode and anode material and selectively decoated. At the same time, this enables a particularly simple separation of the valuable cathode coating (usually mixed metal oxide containing cobalt) from the anode coating (usually graphite). The intelligent shock wave treatment thus results in the concentrates being economically exploitable. The discharge of the disassembled battery materials from the crushing tank and their separation is carried out by means of conventional conveying and sorting technology.

Currently, the shock wave process is mainly used for cobalt-containing Li-ion batteries and is particularly economical, but the processing of other battery materials is also possible in principle.

Recycling on an industrial scale

Up to now, conventional recycling processes have not been able to break down materials selectively, which is why the materials could not be recovered in high quality for return to production. This is due to the variety of materials and the complex structure of the batteries. In most cases, the only way to recover the valuable elements was by pyro- and hydrometallurgical final recycling of the material mixtures. Over the past years ImpulsTec has succeeded in bringing the shock wave comminution process from the laboratory process to production on an industrial scale. This is the prerequisite for the growth of e-mobility as fast as planned.

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