Challenging the concept of electrochemical discharge using salt solutions for lithium-ion batteries recycling

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The use of lithium-ion batteries (LIB) has grown significantly in recent years, making them a promising source of secondary raw materials due to their rich composition of valuable materials such as Co, Ni and Al. However, the high voltage and reactive components of LIBs pose safety hazards during crushing stages in recycling processes, and during storage and transportation. Electrochemical discharge by immersion of spent batteries in salt solutions has been generally accepted as a robust and straightforward discharging step to ad- dress these potential hazards. Nonetheless, there is no clear evidence in the literature to support the use of electrochemical discharge in real systems, neither are there clear indications of the real-world limitations of this practice. To that aim, this work presents a series of experiments systematically conducted to study the be- havior of LIBs during electrochemical discharge in salt solutions. In the first part of this study, a LIB sample was discharged ex-situ using Pt wires connected to the battery poles and submerged into the electrolyte solu- tion on the opposite end. The evolution of voltage in the battery was measured for solutions of NaCl, NaSO4, FeSO4, and ZnSO4. The results indicate that, among the electrolytes used in the present study, NaCl solution is the most effective for LIBs discharge. The discharge of LIB using sulfate salts is however only possible with the aid of stirring, as deposition of solid precipitated on the electrodes hinder the electrochemical discharge. Furthermore, it was found that the addition of particulates of Fe or Zn as sacrificial metal further enhances the discharging rate, likely due to an increased contact area with the electrolyte solution. While these findings support the idea of using electrochemical discharge as a pre-treatment of LIBs, severe corrosion of the battery poles was observed upon direct immersion of batteries into electrolyte solutions. Prevention of such corrosion requires further research efforts, perhaps focused on a new design-for-recycling approach of LIBs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-249
Number of pages8
JournalWaste Management
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Lithium-ion battery; Discharging; Safety; Recycling; Corrosion


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