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Recycling is a potential solution to narrow the gap between the supply and demand of raw materials for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). However, the efficient separation of the active components and their recovery from battery waste remains a challenge. This paper evaluates the influence of three potential routes for the liberation of LIB components (namely mechanical, thermomechanical, and electrohydraulic fragmentation) on the recovery of lithium metal oxides (LMOs) and spheroidized graphite particles using froth flotation. The products of the three liberation routes were characterized using SEM-based automated image analysis. It was found that the mechanical process enabled the delamination of active materials from the foils, which remained intact at coarser sizes along with the casing and separator. However, binder preservation hinders active material liberation, as indicated by their aggregation. The electrohydraulic fragmentation route resulted in liberated active materials with a minor impact on morphology. The coarse fractions thus produced consist of the electrode foils, casing, and separator. Notwithstanding, it has the disadvantage of forming heterogeneous agglomerates containing liberated active particles. This was attributed to the dissolution of the anode binder and its rehardening after drying, capturing previously liberated particles. Finally, the thermomechanical process showed a preferential liberation of individual anode active particles and thus was considered the preferred upstream route for flotation. However, the thermal treatment oxidized Al foils, rendering them brittle and resulting in their distribution in all size fractions. Among the three, the thermomechanical black mass showed the highest flotation selectivity due to the removal of the binder, resulting in a product recovery of 94.4% graphite in the overflow and 89.4% LMOs in the underflow product.
- automated mineralogy
- froth flotation
- lithium-ion battery
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- 1 Active
01/05/2021 → 30/04/2024
Project: Business Finland: Strategic centres for science, technology and innovation (SHOK)