Bringing lithium cobalt batteries into the circular economy
Winner of a special prize in the SFI Zero Emissions Challenge, the LiCoRICE project (co-funded by Department of Foreign Affairs) is bringing lithium cobalt batteries into the circular economy.
Team: Dr Tony Keene (UCD), Dr Steven Ferguson (UCD), Conor Leonard (WEEE Ireland)
The Challenge: Rechargeable batteries containing lithium and cobalt are key to meeting Ireland’s aims of decarbonising transport by 2030 and limiting the effects of transport emission on climate change. Currently, demand for these batteries is increasing massively, but the supply of raw materials is limited and mining them often involves exploitation of child labour. Ireland (and Europe) also face challenges in security of the supply of these materials as they originate outside of the EU. Recycling spent batteries is obviously the answer, but to date, this is not undertaken in an efficient manner and involves export of waste across the world. A solution to the problem of recycling batteries will positively impact everyone’s lives, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, lowering the cost of electric vehicles and improving the conditions of populations involved in mining raw materials.
The Solution: The LICORICE team’s highly innovative solution is to recycle waste battery products into a novel material that is then transformed into fresh lithium cobalt oxide (LCO) for new batteries. Our process will result in lower energy consumption and a fast turnaround for producing LCO compared to current industry standards. We will work with industry and academics to make Ireland’s first fully green battery, showing that electric vehicle production can be environmentally sound. This will lead to cheaper batteries for electric vehicles, lower carbon emissions and relieve conditions for communities involved in mining the raw materials.