With a $1.08 million contract award from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a collaborative organization of FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors, a materials engineering research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will extend development of its novel process to recycle spent lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and produce new cathode materials that are increasingly being adopted by automotive battery makers to reduce cost and increase energy density.
Building on a successful phase 1 (completed earlier this year), the contract award, which includes a 50 percent cost share, funds a 24-month phase 2 project. This contract will enable WPI to demonstrate the ability of its process to recycle spent Li-ion batteries and produce new cathode materials to generate a higher nickel cathode powder. This material is of increasing relevance in the current market shift towards higher nickel content.
The WPI team, led by Yan Wang, William Smith Foundation Dean’s Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has developed a patented closed-loop recycling process in which the batteries are first shredded. After the shredded materials are separated, the cathode powders are dissolved. By adjusting the chemistry of the solution, new materials, in the desired ratios, can be precipitated out as precursor and used to make cathode material for new batteries. Other materials recovered from the shredded batteries, including steel, graphite, and plastics, can also be recycled, thus benefiting the environment and improving the overall business model.