The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced last week that they will award $5.5 million to companies that advance lithium-ion battery recycling technology and will dedicate an additional $15 million towards developing a research center focused on batteries. The Lithium Battery R&D recycling Center will be led by Argonne National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The initiatives will seek to help recover critical materials such as cobalt and lithium, from consumer electronics, energy storage and other sources, the DOE announced.
These materials have been the focus of e-scrap in recent years, largely due to the fact that used lithium-ion batteries can cause thermal events in processing and transportation operations if they are not handled properly. Another driving factor for the interest in the material is due to the increasing number of products that are lithium-ion battery dependent.
The DOE writes, “the goal of the Recycling Prize and R&D Center is to develop technologies to profitability capture 90% of all lithium based battery technologies in the United States. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are collected and recycled at a rate of less than 5%”. The prize will be awarded to contestants in three phases” designed to accelerate the development of solutions from concept to prototype to demonstration,” the announcement states. It will also be awarded over a period of three years.
The new project comes after last year’s move by the U.S. Department of Commerce that added several metals used in consumer electronics to a federal “critical materials” list that’s used to guide research priorities. That list was crafted in response to an executive order from President Trump, seeking to reduce reliance on foreign sources for certain focus materials. According to the DOE, increasing recovery and recycling of cobalt, lithium and other critical materials fits squarely within the executive order.