Lithium iron phosphate batteries are more environmentally friendly and cheaper than lithium ones with cobalt cathodes, but for the same reason, recycling LFP batteries is considered an unprofitable measure. It’s like plastic: it’s cheap, and recycling costs incomparable money. There will be more and more LFP-only batteries, and the issue of recycling used batteries will become even more acute over time. Perhaps scientists from the United States have figured out how to solve it.
Research in the field of processing and recovery of cathode materials for lithium iron phosphate batteries is aimed at solving two problems of degradation that arise during the operation of such batteries. First, voids appear in the cathode materials during the circulation of lithium ions. Secondly, iron and lithium ions in the crystal structure of the cathode material are interchanged, which prevents further circulation of substituted lithium ions and leads to a loss of battery capacity.
Scientists at the University of California (UC) in San Diego have proposed the following low-cost method for releasing lithium ions from lithium iron phosphate cathode material. To do this, they placed a powdered cathode in a solution of citric acid and lithium salts and heated it to 60–80 ° C. After heating, the powder was dried and new cathodes and batteries were made from it. A study of recyclable batteries showed no material degradation.
In the proposed process, the lithium salt in solution saturates the cathode with lithium ions lost during the recharge cycles, and citric acid, in reaction with iron ions, releases the trapped lithium ions from the crystal structure of the cathode. It is argued that, in comparison with the known methods of processing lithium-iron-phosphate cathodes, the new technique will require 80–90% less energy, which means that the processing of such batteries may become justified.
This is difficult to overestimate, since Tesla, for example, plans to produce “popular” electric vehicles with a price of no more than $ 25 thousand based on lithium iron phosphate batteries. And she’s not alone.
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