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The Technical University of Freiberg has developed a holistic approach to recycling in which mechanical processes are investigated instead of energy-inefficient melting.


Rechargeable lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries are increasingly ubiquitous in modern electronics. They are present in all portable personal devices, electric vehicles and many aerospace applications. But the current method of recycling of these batteries leaves much room for improvement.

The EU has set itself the target of recycling 50 percent of these batteries – no small feat.To this end, the Technical University (TU) of Freiberg has been working with four other partners to develop what they are calling a ‘holistic‘ approach to recycling, exploring mechanical processes instead of energy-inefficient melting. The melting-down of li-ion batteries is costly and complicated: the unit consists of a complex mixture of materials, including graphite, aluminium, copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese and lithium, and the exact composition also varies according to manufacturer.

The so-called ‘InnoRec’ research project, which will be carried out by scientists at the Institute of Mechanical Process Engineering and Mineral Processing Technology (MVTAT) within the TU, will look at classical recovery processes such as crushing, drying and sorting to divide the materials. Compared to melting, more materials will be recoverable for reuse.

"But the proper disposal of old batteries and accumulators is also essential for our approach. Until now, far too much still ends up in household waste or remains in the drawer at home," explains Prof. Urs Peuker of MVTAT, talking to IWR, the journal of the regenerative energy industry.

InnoRec is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research until 2022 (within the framework of the ‘ProZell’ competence cluster) and involves the TU Clausthal, the TU Braunschweig, the RWTH Aachen, and the MEET in Münster, in addition to the TU Freiberg. The results of the project will be incorporated into teaching modules at the universities and will be the basis for final theses.