The electric vehicle and energy storage industries will generate over one-million tons per annum of lithium-ion for recycling in the next decade. There are significant technology gaps in the recovery of lithium-ion battery materials that threaten the sustainability of these industries. Cathode healing is introduced here as a new approach to produce low cost (i.e. < $10/kg), recycled, battery grade electrode material. The soft-chemical treatment non-destructively recycles cathodes. Two examples are shown in this work: LiNi0.5Co0.2Mn0.3O2 and LiNi0.6Co 0.2Mn0.2O2 (NCM 523 and NCM 622). The cathodes were harvested from end-of-life cells and further processed with cathode-healing methods to reproduce recycled electrodes with performance equivalent to the original manufactured baseline material. The so-called healed cathodes were built into 2Ah test cells and compared side-by-side with the baseline. Healed NCM 523 performed like the baseline, recording over 2,100 charge-discharge cycles to reach 80% of original capacity. The cathode healing process was modified to fully recover end-of-life NCM 622. Powder X-ray diffraction and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy data support the lithium capacity measurements with structural models. These analyses show that cathode healing reverses cation mixing by oxidizing nickel to reproduce well-ordered, high-capacity material. These examples show the technical feasibility and low-cost opportunity for cathode healing to enable sustainability in the electric vehicle and energy storage industries.
Sustainable Materials and Technologies, Volume 22, 2019, e00113, ISSN 2214-9937,