This article originates from Technology Review 6/2019. The magazine is available on 23.05.2019 both in the shop and directly in the shopping center.
The ecological balance of electric cars is mainly affected by battery production. Duesenfeld GmbH from Wendeburg near Braunschweig has developed recycling of used batteries more efficiently than before. Magazine Technology Review reports its latest issue 7/2019 (now in the kiosk or can be ordered here).
Shredder instead of oven
Previous methods are generally based on melting batteries. Thus, although cobalt, nickel, and manganese can be separated, the remainder end up in slag rollback solutions. The process is cheap, but not very energy efficient or environmentally friendly. The recycling rate is only 25%.
However, according to Christian Hanisch, CEO of Duesenfeld, material recycling is 96 percent. "We consume 70% less energy and reduce CO compared to conventional processes2Battery footprint 40 percent. "
In the first stage, the batteries are discharged well. "With this power we work with a shredder," Hanisch says, after which the batteries will be unloaded manually. Aluminum casing, copper cables and plastic fasteners are sorted into grids, bare battery cells are shredded. No corrosive hydrogen fluoride, which must be carefully filtered from the exhaust gases, and the electrolyte can be reused: the vacuum pump reduces the pressure to the point where it evaporates, condenses and closes.
Only the foil stays behind
After crushing, granules of different materials are obtained. They can be further sorted by conventional separation techniques – fans, strainers or magnetic drums. There's a fine black powder left. It contains large amounts of lithium, graphite, nickel, manganese and cobalt that can be reused. Only the separation film does not return to the material cycle.
Read the full article in the July issue of the Technology Review (Available in well-chosen newspaper books and Heise shop).