International Battery Seminar - Engineering Strategy for Design and Scale-Up of a Recycling Process

I’m going to say it, I’m energized by the thought of participating in the International Battery Seminar and Exhibit in Orlando, Florida, next month. In 2023, more than 2,100 battery technologists attended. This year’s March event is expected to be even larger, with many speakers from around the world. I’m going to be one of them!

The Seminar has four streams for participants:

  • R & D: Battery Research and Recycling
  • Manufacturing: Performance and Supply Chain
  • Engineering: Safety, Management Systems and Intelligence
  • Applications: Energy Storage Systems (ESS), Automotive and Electronics

I’m presenting as part of the Battery Recycling - Advanced Recycling Methods for Sustainable Battery Materials Supply session on March 14 at 5 p.m. This stream reviews the latest advances in recycling technologies for producing sustainable battery materials from different recycling sources.  My presentation, “Engineering Strategy for Design and Scale-Up of a Recycling Process” focuses on one of the most important topics for battery recycling: How to de-risk the scale-up to commercial operations.

Presenting a five-step process

To correctly scale-up, the industry needs to “act like recyclers” but “think like a chemical plant” for making high-quality black mass. My presentation provides a five-step procedure beginning with questions to ask for a detailed specification as well as discussion of important considerations from preliminary design to final design for construction. The engineering strategy must include HAZOP risk analysis for the plant’s safe operation.

The procedure I’ll go over is applicable for the recycling of wet or dry production scrap and End-of-Life (EOL) batteries from the transportation sector, and for small-format batteries from the household consumer sector and power tools. If you want to learn more, check out another presentation I’ve made on recycling process for lithium and battery materials.

With such a rapid proliferation of technological advances and the cross-disciplinary nature of the work worldwide, companies in lithium and battery materials and the recycling market need “Key-Shaped” engineers. That means working with people who have several areas of expertise with varying degrees of depth.

Who should attend my presentation?

My presentation provides guidance to engineers facing critical decisions for selecting process shredding, granulating, and drying technologies for the various complex steps in battery recycling. I’ll also discuss criteria for selecting technologies with the objective of helping you develop creative process solutions to achieve battery grade black mass and a reliable and cost-effective operation.

For more information on black mass recovery, read my column in Chemical Processing, Barry on Batteries. You can check out the slides now. Please contact me if you will be in Orlando. Otherwise let’s schedule a virtual meeting.  Let us get more efficient together.


2024 Trends for Lithium and Battery Materials

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

P&ID is immersed in many different sectors of the lithium and battery materials market such as lithium production, battery materials (both metal powders and liquid electrolytes), and recycling. Our hands-on experience keeps P&ID in the forefront of developments. I thought I’d share some of my predictions for the industry, drawing on my unique perspective of lithium and battery materials from working directly with clients, writing the Chemical Processing column, Barry on Batteries, and participating in conferences and making presentations.

Lithium and battery materials production trends

First, in 2024, I anticipate growth will continue in lithium production as the geothermal brine reservoirs continue to be developed. This shift helps lithium production move away from traditional mining to more environmentally-sound production processes. These brines have been used already for heating as well as bromine production. Now, there are developments recovering lithium from these brines. This is ongoing in Europe as well as in the U.S. in the Smackover Formation (Arkansas) and the Salton Sea (California).

We’ll also see continued attention to more sustainable and safer materials. For instance, current battery designs use lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese. Yet, lithium and iron phosphate (LFP) designs are growing. Zinc batteries and sodium batteries are also promising alternatives holding the potential to replace lithium-ion batteries in certain applications.

Let’s not forget battery binders and electrolytes. There are many alternatives for the liquid electrolytes in the market as well as for the binders holding all the components together. Polyvinylidene fluoride  (PVDF) is the main separator material now, but major chemical players are on the lookout for more sustainable and safer materials.

Trends on the recycling side

In the recycling sector, we can see different approaches to shredding and crushing the batteries, drying and recovery of the black mass, and sorting and classification of the metals. Expect new plants to come onboard with the growth in battery production scrap and more small-format consumer batteries (e.g., from power tools), as well as end-of-life batteries either from state-of-charge or, unfortunately, from automotive crashes.

The breadth of recycling solutions for this sector will inevitably grow. At the same time, I expect a shake-out in the market as major chemical producers expand their offerings and start-up companies develop niche products.

Let’s continue this lithium and battery materials innovation and hope to see you at the International Battery Seminar & Exhibit, 12 - 15 March 2024 in Orlando, where I will be speaking about Engineering Strategy for Design and Scale-Up of a Recycling Process .” Contact me and we can plan for a meeting.


Process Solutions for Purified Liquids and Blended Powders for Battery Materials

 

powders for battery materials
Photo by Huebert World on Unsplash

Lithium ion battery (LIB) manufacturers represent a new market segment for process solutions. As I discussed in my recent column in Chemical Processing, Barry on Batteries, you need solid-liquid separation technology to produce purified electrolyte liquids and blended powders. Here I’ll expand on my thinking about how existing chemical industry tech can adapt to battery materials needs.

Process solutions for purified liquids

High purity and high product effectiveness are the goals when it comes to liquids including sulfates, hydroxides, and carbonates. My book, Handbook of Solid-Liquid Filtration, discusses bag and cartridge filtration systems for purification if the solids loading or percent solids in the liquid are below 50 part per million (ppm). These systems can provide quality levels down to 0.45 microns (µm).

For solids loading that are > 50 ppm, processors of battery materials should use automated systems such as enclosed filter presses, candle filters and pressure plate filters.  My on-demand, short course, Automatic Filtration Technologies and the associated E-book, covers these technologies. I wasn’t talking about battery materials then, but the information covered is especially relevant to the lithium battery chemicals market.

Process solutions for blended powders

Solids blending in battery materials production is critical to produce battery-grade final product.  You’ll find a large variation among manufacturers about the characteristics of the powders being blended including particle size, free flowing versus sticky solids, dusting, etc. These variances call for rigorous testing and data collection to determine the most appropriate blending technology.

Typically, pugmill and pin blenders are optimal for homogeneous mixing:

  • A pugmill unit allows for gentle blending with a slow­speed, high-torque approach for handling sticky powders.
  • In a pin blender, the centrifugal rotation blending the product is particularly advantageous for working with free-flowing, non-abrasive powders.

Extrusion is another option to consider in battery-material blending and recovery. Common extrusion applications include graphite production (granulation), separator sheets and polymer-gel electrolytes, anode and cathode material compounding, and solid-state electrolytes.

Extrusion technology processes solids in a long barrel with the design of the screw determining the relevant unit operations to shear, melt, disperse, compress, granulate, and compound the solids. Zone pressure and temperature are controlled and measured during the flow to suit different applications.

Optimize design for battery materials

Battery-material manufacturers should take a holistic approach to downstream technology decisions to develop an optimum design. This involves finding solutions by looking at blending and recovery as a single, integrated process rather than individual steps. Plus, as I’m always reiterating, lab and pilot testing with data collection and analysis are always necessary.

Have questions about purification and blending technologies for battery materials? Contact me for help.


library books

2023: A Year of Communication and Education

library books
Photo by Patrik Göthe on Unsplash

As I think back on 2023, two words come to mind: Communication and Education. This year, P&ID  helped clients in Canada, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and The Netherlands as well as in the U.S. Applications included food spices, chemicals, specialty chemicals, energy and lithium, and battery and plastics recycling. I also consulted for equipment technology suppliers on market strategies, technology innovations, and other special projects as a Fractional Chief Marketing Office (CMO).

One important skill surfaced as I worked across markets and among all the different cultures, languages, and ideas—communication. Effective communication takes time. We must all share in the effort to listen, formulate our questions and answers, and communicate on technical and commercial subjects. Many times, what we want to communicate is education. We must meet the challenge of taking our internal ideas and educating the market via articles, white papers, seminars, blog posts, videos, etc. Meeting this challenge was a key success for P&ID in 2023. We helped many clients communicate with and educate their target audiences.

The value of varied perspectives

Over three insightful days this month in San Diego, California, I also joined in Advanced Automotive Battery Conference (AABC) discussion of technical challenges and presented on installations of Lithium-Ion Battery (LIBs) Recycling Plants operating at 50 kg/hour to 4 m-tons/hour. I communicated my vision for this market’s future during the panel discussion. LIBs recycling is a complex process with crushing and shredding, black mass drying, electrolyte recovery with gas treatment and finally classification and sorting. Each step must be integrated upstream and downstream to minimize environmental impacts while maximizing safety, recovery, and efficiency.

Conferences like this one, and the NATTBatt workshop earlier this year, provide a valuable opportunity to communicate with experts along the entire battery value chain. While North America is establishing its market, the reality is that our battery ecosystem is not on a level playing field with Europe and Asia. The industry must educate itself to successfully scale up to meet the ambitious electrification targets and increase the supply of critical materials to meet market demands.

Looking ahead to 2024

Still, I am always aware that education isn’t all external. Continuously learning will support P&ID’s plans to add value and make a difference for clients in 2024. Expect me to share insights into battery cell manufacturing , graphite recovery, infrared drying and quality control, and testing on my site and in my Chemical Processing column, Barry on Batteries.

In 2023, I was proud to play a key role in reimagining what's possible in the process and battery industries by bringing new ideas to clients. As we move into 2024, I remain committed to driving innovation, improving processes, and helping you navigate the complexities of your manufacturing landscape. I look forward to working with you to make 2024 another year of progress.


Talking Advances in Battery Recycling at Conference Driving Vehicle Electrification

 

Vehicle electrification
Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

As automakers and governments around the world grow increasingly optimistic about vehicle electrification, technological development needs to keep up. While manufacturers make efforts globally to enhance battery performance and durability, sustainability in the battery supply chain is also a focus area. Annually, industry professionals gather to discuss the underlying technical and business issues impacting the pace and path of vehicle electrification worldwide. This year I’ll join them to discuss advances in battery recycling.

The Advanced Automotive Battery Conference (AABC) takes place in San Diego, California in December.  The AABC has been meeting since 2001 “to review automotive battery technology and provide glimpses into the future.”  The conference is built on visionary keynotes, industry use cases, interactive panel discussions, and tutorials around the challenges and breakthroughs that will drive vehicle electrification forward. The seminar has 10 technology symposium streams as follows:

  • Chemistry
  • Engineering
  • Heavy Duty
  • Battery Manufacturing
  • Recycling
  • EV Battery Technology
  • Raw Materials
  • Battery Intelligence
  • Manufacturing Automation
  • Hydrogen & Fuel Cells

I have the opportunity to present in the Symposium stream for battery recycling.  The focus of this stream is to review latest advances in recycling technologies and methods for producing sustainable battery materials from different recycling sources as well as recycling market demand.

Outlining the dry process for recycling

My presentation provides an “Overview of the Dry Process for Recycling of Lithium-ion Batteries Including Mechanical Treatment, Black Mass Drying, Electrolyte Recovery, Gas Treatment and Sorting.”

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) recycling is a complex process with crushing and shredding, black mass drying, electrolyte recovery with gas treatment, and finally classification and sorting. Each step must be integrated upstream and downstream to maximize safety and minimize environmental impacts while achieving maximum recovery and efficiency.  My presentation reviews current “dry process” installations from pilot demonstration plants to full-scale production and illustrates recovery of black mass, copper, aluminum, plastic, and ferrous metals.  The “Dry Process” is applicable for the recycling of production scrap and End-of-Life (EOL) batteries from the transportation sector and for small-format batteries from the household consumer sector.

I hope you enjoy this article’s preview of my presentation. You can read additional recycling information on my website or in my Chemical Processing column, Barry on Batteries.  Please contact me if you will be in San Diego or let’s schedule a virtual meeting.  Let us get more electrified together.