Toshiba to Begin Plant Operations for Recycling of Lithium-Ion Batteries

April 05, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

Before the end of April, Term Corp. (Tokyo, Japan), an affiliate of Toshiba Corp., will begin operation of a pilot plant for recycling lithium-ion batteries used in notebook computers. The new plant will have a capacity of 10kg of batteries an hour.

According to Toshiba, recycling cobalt will be more economical than procuring it from mining companies, if it is possible to recover cobalt at a recyclable ratio of more than 80 percent, excluding transportation and labor costs. For lithium, recovering it from waste fluid is more economical than disposing of the waste fluid.

DDC, Toshiba's in-house venture in charge of displays and discrete components, will recycle the recovered cobalt and lithium as materials for manufacturing new lithium-ion secondary batteries. Initially, only lithium-ion batteries will be recycled; a recycling system for secondary batteries containing hydrogen (such as NiMH batteries) has not been established.

After being discharged at the recycling plant, the batteries are crushed. Iron, copper and aluminum are separated through dry processes using magnets and screens, or by differences in specific gravity. The wet, or chemical separation, processes follow.

The materials go into a solution in sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide to remove impurities such as aluminum and copper. Then cobalt hydroxide is recovered by electrolysis. The cobalt hydroxide is sintered and sized. Lithium is recovered as lithium-carbonate.