Author: KIT

During the third semester, researchers from KIT further studied and improved the conditions for the mechanochemical transformation of black mass (BM) into metallic black mass (MBM). Since BM supplied by ACC is already in a reduced state, they focused on reducing BM supplied by TES. This BM consists mostly of NMC (lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxides) cathode material and graphite, which was found to slow down the reaction kinetics. The reduction of the cathode active material by the metallic reducing agent result in the formation of the transition metals along with lithium oxide (Li2O) and the oxide of the respective reducing agent, which can be monitored by X-ray diffraction.

In contrast to the previous two semesters, researchers switched from shaker mills to planetary mills, which enable control of the rotation speed and larger volumes that can be processed. Various parameters such as ball-to-sample ratio (BSR), ball size, total load and rotation speed were investigated to optimise for a short reaction time.

Main take-aways

In general, the higher the BSR, the more mechanical energy can be transferred per gram of powder which results in a more intense milling and a faster reaction; however, this limits the throughput. Larger balls, on the one hand, lead to higher kinetic energies. On the other hand, fewer balls are used to keep the BSR constant resulting in a lower collision frequency. The maximum rotation speed is lower to prevent damage to the grinding media.

With Calcium as the reducing agent, no reaction was achieved at all. An unfavorable combination of ductility and size of the calcium pieces seems to resist further size reduction, which is required for the reaction.

Aluminium has the advantage of being used as a current collector and is already present in the black mass. However, during the reaction, LiAlO2 is formed, which is limiting the subsequent Li extraction efficiency in WP5. This problem can be avoided when magnesium is used as the reducing agent, which proved to be more reactive than aluminium but doesn’t form other lithium compounds than Li2O.

Compared to the shaker mill, a higher reaction rate was observed in the planetary mill. Researcher from KIT achieved a complete conversion of the lithium transition metal oxide in the planetary mill within 3 h using Mg as the reducing agent. In a larger version of the mill, the required milling time increases to 8 hours. Here, further investigations are planned for the next months.

Read previous article on the pre-treatment operations: Pre-treatment operations: Reactive milling for the production of metallic black mass

© Photo: Adobe

RHINOCEROS attending Shifting Economy Week

From 21 to 25 November 2023, the city of Brussels hosted the Shifting Economy Week, an annual event dedicated to showcasing transformative projects that aim to pave the way to an economy that is low-carbon, regenerative, and equally circular. The 2023 exhibitors’ line-up included, among other regional stakeholders, our partner Watt4Ever (W4E), industrial partner specialised in the development of innovative solutions for energy storage and management. W4E leveraged its presence at Shifting Economy Week to to raise awareness about the importance of circular economy principles in the context of the battery industry.

During the same event, W4E’s CEO, Aimilios Orfanos, was invited to speak at the BeCircular conference, an event dedicated to presenting concrete examples of circular economy approaches put in place by Brussels-based companies. He shared insights from W4E’s experience in developing second-life battery systems for electric vehicles, emphasising their potential benefits in terms of environmental impact and cost savings. Simultaneously, the CEO also highlighted the challenges faced by the industry in implementing circular business models, including regulatory barriers and market incentives.

Photo showing a conference room with participants listening to the presentation about circularity in battery production, use and disposal, delivered by Aimilios Orfanos, CEO of Watt4Ever, Belgian company specialised in the development of innovative solutions for energy storage and management.

RHINOCEROS at its second participation at Circular Wallonia Days

A few days after attending Shifting Economy Week, W4E represented the RHINOCEROS project at the Circular Wallonia Days, held on 13 and 14 December 2023. Centred around advancing the circularity of the batteries value chain, the event brought together stakeholders from academia, industry, and government to discuss strategies for improving the sustainability of battery production, use, and disposal. The focus topics covered recycling technologies, supply chain transparency, and policy measures to support the transition to a circular battery economy.

© Photo credits: Watt4Ever

Part of the Cluster Hub “Production of raw materials for batteries from European resources”, the RHINOCEROS consortium received the online visit of FREE4LIB representatives during the second day of the Consortium meeting held in Gothenburg. This initiative including stakeholders involved in different European R&D initiatives goes beyond building a knowledge exchange ecosystem to address common topics related to EU-funded projects; it paves new collaboration routes and synergies aiming at driving innovations for the recycling of batteries and the production of raw materials for battery applications from primary and secondary resources available in Europe.

Represented by Julius Ott (industrial engineer with expertise in circular economy at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz) and Pau Sanchis (senior policy officer Eurobat), the FREE4LIB presentation focused mainly on the Digital Battery passport and the relevant legislative situation at European level.

Pau Sanchis referred to the Digital Battery Passport in the context of the new regulation on batteries and waste batteries which entered into force on 17 August 2023.  According to this update, thoroughly explained in Art. 77, the battery passport should contain information “relating to the battery model and information specific to individual battery, including resulting from the use of that battery”.

“Batteries should be labelled in order to provide end-users with transparent, reliable and clear information about batteries and waste batteries. That information would enable end-users to make informed decisions when buying and discarding batteries and waste operators to appropriately treat waste batteries. Batteries should be labelled with all the necessary information concerning their main characteristics, including their capacity and the amount of certain hazardous substances present. To ensure the availability of information over time, that information should also be made available by means of QR codes which are printed or engraved on batteries or are affixed to the packaging and to the documents accompanying the battery and should respect the guidelines of ISO/IEC Standard 18004:2015. The QR code should give access to a battery’s product passport. Labels and QR codes should be accessible to persons with disabilities, in accordance with Directive (EU) 2019/882 of the European Parliament and of the Council (17).”

The policy officer emphasised the role of the standardisation process on the Battery Passport, which requires the Commission to adopt implementing decision requesting European Standardisation Organisation to develop standards in support of Ecodesign by December 2023. Standards regarding the technical design and operation of the Battery Passport are expected to complement provisions under Art. 78. According to the timeline presented in the regulation, the first application of the battery passport is expected in 2027. From 18 February 2027 onwards, “all batteries shall be marked with a QR code as described in Part C of Annex VI.

The new regulation aiming at strengthening sustainability rules for batteries and waste batteries will be supported by various secondary legislation pieces which will ensure all the requirements will be developed and implemented effectively. The QR code shall provide access to the following:

  • for light means of transport (LMT) batteries, industrial batteries with a capacity greater than 2kWh and electric vehicles batteries, the battery passport in accordance with Article 77.
  • for other batteries, the applicable information referred to in paragraphs 1 to 5 of this Article, the declaration of conformity referred to in Article 18, the report referred to in Article 52(3) and the information regarding the prevention and management of waste batteries laid down in Article 74(1), points (a) to (f).
  • for starting, light, and ignition (SLI) batteries, the amount of cobalt, lead, lithium or nickel recovered from waste and present in active materials in the battery, calculated in accordance with Article 8.

The policy overview presentation was complemented by the technical presentation undertaken by Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, that will develop a data model of the digital battery passport platform aiming to close the information gap between beginning-of-life (BoL) and end-of-life (EoL) battery lifetime. Relying on knowledge generated previously by Univ. of Graz, the researchers set an objective to define clear user roles and establish access to certain information. Up to this moment, the work carried out has been focusing on data collection and data handling (data points sorting) on the other side. This specific work encountered various challenges, notably the users willingness to share information, process standardisation, the variety of products, the recycling cost/revenue ratio, the dynamic development of the legislative framework, to name a few.

Learn more about the progress on the battery passport on the FREE4LIB website.

Within Work package 2 – Selection, characterisation and supply, partners Watt4Ever [W4E] and Accurec [ACC] assembled the database and the parameters for module selection, which will further facilitate streamline the development of electric vehicles (EV) 2nd life batteries.  

The criteria were selected based on the 2nd life partner input and were adapted at module level. Partners generated a database using a sample of 200 commercial and passenger vehicles grouped in the following categories: Battery Hybrid Electric Vehicle (BEV), Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) and Plug in Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV). The input received contributed to the identification of the required acceptance criteria that will help select the best modules for 2nd life Battery Energy Storage System (BESS).  

Selection criteria

The database of 200 BEV/PHEV/MHEV batteries and their characteristics, including a summary of technical information for each model, has been generated. Due to the mechanical, technical and software challenges that need to be overcome for efficient module integration in deployable LV and HV BESS, the database includes the following parameters as criteria for 2nd life applications: size, capacity, Cell Management Unit (CMU), casing and cell configuration. The chosen criteria should improve the security of the dismantling process and facilitate access to the module level for each battery pack. Simultaneously, these parameters will simplify the integration of 2nd life modules in battery energy storage or other systems.

Mechanical design criteria  Electrical design criteria 
Physical Properties  Cell configuration 
Capacity  Casing 

Mechanical design criteria 

For 2nd life applications, module level parameters are the ones that give insight on the desirability. First set of parameters are the Physical Properties. Second life integrators already have knowledge of module integration and have specific designs to accommodate the battery modules, if the module sizing is the commonly used roughly the size of a shoe box 350*150*120 mm, it already makes the integration a lot easier, faster and cheaper. By adding Capacity, power density can be calculated, and thus the technical design can be improved to maximise the capacity of the system. 

Electrical design criteria 

Cell configuration give an insight in to the voltage of the module, but also allows to wonder about the possible Battery Management System (BMS) use in the battery. Casing protects the cells from puncture, grinding, shorting out, but most importantly, expansion. With regards to BMS,/CMU, on various cases, partners noticed that OEMs integrate internal CMU on the module level, which can facilitate their use for second life applications. On the contrary, in cases where no CMU is available, one needs to be provided by the OEM or 3rd party.  

Module acceptance criteria for low voltage (LV) 48V systems

This design would allow to accommodate shoebox size modules from different OEM, while also keeping the same design of the box with small adjustments.

Mechanical design criteria

  • Casing– Open top or Alu Jacket 
  • Size: 350*150*120 mm ± 100 mm on all axis 
  • CMU: External multimodule, external single module or internal and all can be reused if OEM CMU unit communications gateway is possible. 
  • Cell amount: 3s-12s 
  • Voltage: 10V-30V 
  • Chemistry: NMC with risk mitigation or LFP

Module acceptance criteria for high voltage (HV) system 

For HV battery energy storage system, modules with higher voltage are prioritised, due to their capacity to save time and budget otherwise spent on wiring and building expenses.  External CMU from 3rd party is the preferred solution to internal CMU, as it minimises any interference and bug risks with the Energy Management System.  to be used to minimize any interference and bug risks with the Energy Management System.  

  • Size: >350*150*120 mm ± 100 mm on all axis 
  • Cell amount: 12s-30s 
  • Voltage: 40V-100V