The collaboration aims to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign sources of battery materials.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory is teaming up with Toyota to explore new ways to recycle and reuse battery components. The collaboration specifically focuses on the recycling of cathodes in lithium-ion batteries, with the ultimate goal of reducing the country’s reliance on foreign sources of battery materials.

The new partnership will involve Argonne, the Toyota Research Institute of North America, and Toyota’s Battery Lifecycle Solutions group. The three organizations will work together to develop a direct recycling process for cathodes made of nickel, manganese, and cobalt. This process will build on the innovative techniques already being explored by the Argonne-based ReCell Center.

One of the key differences between traditional recycling methods and the direct recycling approach is how the chemical structure of the battery components is treated. In traditional recycling, the structure is broken down into raw materials for the manufacturing of new batteries. Direct recycling, on the other hand, aims to extract and reuse the components without altering their original structure. This can potentially make the recycling process more efficient and cost-effective.

As part of the collaboration, Toyota will provide Argonne with a supply of its plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Argonne researchers will then apply the lab’s direct recycling process to extract and regenerate the cathode material from these batteries. The team will assess the performance of the recycled cathodes at each stage of the process, from small coin cells to larger pouch cells.

“In most battery recycling today, the chemical structure of end-of-life battery components is broken down into the raw materials used in manufacturing,” the press release stated. “Unlike this traditional approach, a technique called direct recycling carefully extracts components from spent batteries. The components’ original structure is retained. If done well, manufacturers can re-use the components, reducing costs and waste.”

The ultimate goal is to demonstrate that the direct recycling process can produce high-performing cathodes in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.

“Our goal is to prove that the process can make high-performing cathodes cost-effectively while reducing energy use and emissions,” said Albert Lipson, Principal Materials Scientist at Argonne.

In addition to the technical development of the recycling process, the collaboration will also include an analysis of the economic and environmental impacts. The team will use Argonne’s EverBatt model to evaluate the costs and benefits of applying the recycling process to Toyota’s batteries.