NYU Tandon professor examines the issue of battery recyclability
BROOKLYN, New York, Tuesday, February 1, 2022 – Batteries are in increasing demand because of their use in electric vehicles, consumer electronics, and grid scale storage. Their ubiquity is due, in part, to the rapid shift toward producing and using clean energy to replace fossil fuels. But how clean are they? Recyclability is a key component of how “dirty” a technology is, from manufacture to use to disposal. Particularly as demand and usage increases, their recyclability and environmental impact will become even greater issues.
A new body of scholarship, funded by the USAID program through the U.S. National Academies and led by Nikhil Gupta, professor of mechanical and aerospace and civil and urban engineering, and a member of the NYU Center for Cybersecurity, focuses on the need to adopt a circular economy (or zero waste) paradigm for the dominant batteries — lithium ion (Li-ion) and lead acid (LA).
The study, “Recycling of Li-Ion and Lead Acid Batteries, a Review,” which appears in The Journal of the Indian Institute of Science, delves into the batteries’ construction and materials, components of production and recycling, multinational recycling loop for spent batteries, and more. The team includes principal author Kaushik Yanamandra, a Ph.D. student in Gupta’s lab; Dinesh Pinisetty of California State University; and Atef Daoud of the Central Metallurgical Research and Development Institute, in Cairo, Egypt.
In the study the investigators report that while Li-ion batteries have higher energy density and longer cycle life, less than 1% of them are recyclable, and the processes for recovering Li for reuse in battery applications are still inefficient. By contrast, LA batteries are now recycled with more than 99% efficiency in the U.S. and E.U. because of factors such as separation at the source, availability of methods to economically recover materials, and regulations supporting recycling. The paper highlights novel recycling techniques being developed for the effective recycling of Li-ion batteries.
“Lead acid batteries have been around for a long time, so recycling has greatly evolved,” noted Gupta. “In fact when one buys a new car battery, the old one must be returned for recycling— it's a requirement. Because the architecture of LA batteries has not changed substantially over the years, recyclers know how to do it quickly and efficiently.”
The coauthor Pinisetty added that “Li-ion batteries will continue to gain market share due to their significantly superior performance. However, the rapidly evolving chemistry and cell design of Li-ion batteries pose major challenges for the recycling industry. Once the battery chemistry is standardized, it will become easier to develop effective recycling technologies.”
Meanwhile, the authors point out that the market size of LA batteries is still growing due to their demand in automotive and grid scale storage applications. They note that:
- The total battery market size was estimated to be US $108.4 billion in 2019 and it is expected to grow by 14.1% from 2020 to 2027
- LA batteries account for 29% of the market share, estimated to be about $59 billion in 2018
- Although the use of Li-ion batteries is rapidly increasing, especially in electrical vehicles and electronic devices, the overall growth of the energy storage device sector is sustaining the LA battery market in terms of volume
This study is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibilities of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. USAID administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance to over 80 countries.
The study, “Recycling of Li-Ion and Lead Acid Batteries, a Review,” can be found at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41745-021-00269-7
About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute. A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences as part of a global university, with close connections to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. NYU Tandon is rooted in a vibrant tradition of entrepreneurship, intellectual curiosity, and innovative solutions to humanity’s most pressing global challenges. Research at Tandon focuses on vital intersections between communications/IT, cybersecurity, and data science/AI/robotics systems and tools and critical areas of society that they influence, including emerging media, health, sustainability, and urban living. We believe diversity is integral to excellence, and are creating a vibrant, inclusive, and equitable environment for all of our students, faculty and staff. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.x