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JRC publication | A comprehensive review and classification of unit operations with assessment of outputs quality in lithium-ion battery recycling

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Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are the core component of the electrification transition. The exponential growth of LIB production generates a large flow of spent batteries which need to be recycled. This paper provides a comprehensive review of industrial realities of LIB recycling companies in Europe, North America, and Asia. An in-depth description of pyrometallurgy-based and hydrometallurgy-based processes is reported, providing a classification of unit operations, their industrial readiness, and the quality of output materials. The analysis shows that the pyrometallurgical route can treat different LIB chemistries without pre-sorting, but Li is not recovered unless the slag is refined. Hydrometallurgy-based processes are more chemistry-specific and enable the recovery of critical raw materials with battery-grade quality, although being affected by losses of electrode active materials during the mechanical pre-treatments for black mass separation. Efforts are required to promote the capacity and industrial readiness of hydrometallurgical processes, especially in Europe, by facilitating sorting and separation operations. There is also the clear need for harmonization of end-of-waste criteria, especially for the slag, and rules for calculating recycling efficiency indicators, representing an opportunity for quantitative techno-economic and environmental modeling of the entire LIB recycling chain.



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