University Researchers Use Simulation Analysis to Assess the Life Cycles of Battery RecyclingApril 20, 2021 by Alessandro Mascellino
A consortium of researchers has completed a series of simulations related to battery recycling and raw materials.
The Finland-based circular ecosystem of battery metals consortium (BATCircle) started collaborating two years ago with the goal of strengthening the country’s position in the circular economy of batteries.
Now, the project involving 23 companies, four universities, two research institutes, and two cities, is coming to a close after a great deal of research.
Image used courtesy of Valeria Azovskaya/Aalto University.
The consortium was first founded in 2019 to improve the manufacturing processes of the mining industry, metals industry, and battery chemicals, as well as to increase the recycling capabilities of lithium-ion batteries.
Over the past two years, and with a €22 million budget (of which €10 million was used so far), BATCircle strengthened the cooperation between companies and research organizations in Finland and supported its participants to find new business opportunities.
Behind the collaboration is the conviction that battery technologies play a fundamental role in the mitigation of climate change effects, for instance through the electrification of transport and the creation of renewable energy storage.
Commenting on the research results, BATCircle’s Project Manager Pyry Hannula said the consortium has explored several promising methods for improving the efficiency of the refining processes and recycling of lithium-ion battery raw materials.
“The results show that larger amounts and a wider range of battery materials can be recovered from batteries while reducing the environmental footprint of the various processes,” Hannula explained.
Reducing Battery Reclycing’s Carbon Footprint
Since Finland is reportedly the largest producer of nickel and cobalt in the EU (counting more than 40 mining operations overall) the BATCircle team also analyzed the potential for sourcing the battery mineral deposits in the Finnish bedrock.
In addition, the team led by Aalto University reported an improved production process of battery materials as a result of its research, together with the development of properties of battery active materials using recycled raw materials.
Aalto University researchers also recently worked on a separate project related to the environmental effects of a hydrometallurgical recycling process for electric car batteries.
The recent study’s results showed that the carbon footprint of the raw material obtained by the novel process was 38% smaller than that of the virgin raw material.
‘Simulation-based life-cycle analysis can be used even at the design stage of recycling processes to assess the environmental impacts and find the best possible options,’ said Mari Lundström, Assistant Professor at Aalto University.
A Multi-faceted Research Project
The BATCircle consortium counts several key Finnish research and industrial institutions specializing in the battery metals sector.
Particularly, the ecosystem comprises the GTK and VTT research centers, Aalto University, University of Oulu, University of Eastern Finland, LUT University, the Town of Harjavalta, the City of Pori, and 23 companies, including Boliden, Elementis, and Fortum, among others.
Image used courtesy of BATCircle.
At the time of writing, the BATCircle project has published 24 peer-reviewed articles, three doctoral dissertations, four reports, 21 master's theses, and five bachelor's theses.
According to the team, there are also roughly 30 articles undergoing drafting before being submitted for peer review.
Moving forward, the consortium intends to continue researching battery technologies. To this end, the team has recently submitted a three-year BATCircle 2.0 project application to Business Finland.
“We aim to continue this important work to keep Finland at the top of Europe's battery research and to ensure that the cooperation between the industry and research institutes supports Finland's efforts to achieve carbon neutrality and create a strong domestic battery industry,’ Lundström concluded.