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Life cycle assessment of lithium-ion battery recycling using pyrometallurgical technologies

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Mohammad RajaeifarORCiD, Professor Oliver Heidrich



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Among existing and emerging technologies to recycle spent lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) from electric vehicles, pyrometallurgical processes are commercially used. However, very little is known about their environmental and energy impacts. In this study, three pyrometallurgical technologies are analyzed and compared in terms of global warming potential (GWP) and cumulative energy demand (CED), namely: an emerging direct current (DC) plasma smelting technology (Sc-1), the same DC plasma technology but with an additional pre-treatment stage (Sc-2), and a more commercially mature ultra-high temperature (UHT) furnace (Sc-3). The net impacts for the recovered metals are calculated using both “open-loop” and “closed-loop” recycling options. Results reveal that shifting from the UHT furnace technology (Sc-3) to the DC plasma technology could reduce the GWP of the recycling process by up to a factor of 5 (when employing pre-treatment, as is the case with Sc-2). Results also vary across factors, for example, different metal recovery rates, carbon/energy intensity of the electricity grid (in Sc-1 and Sc-2), rates of aluminum recovery (in Sc-2), and sources of coke (in Sc-3). However, the sensitivity analysis showed that these factors do not change the best option which was determined before (as Sc-2) except in a few cases for CED. Overall, the research methodology and application presented by this life cycle assessment informs future energy and environmental impact assessment studies that want to assess existing recycling processes of LIB or other emerging technologies

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rajaeifar MA, Raugei M, Steubing B, Hartwell A, Anderson PA, Heidrich O

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Industrial Ecology

Year: 2021

Volume: 25

Issue: 6

Pages: 1560-1571

Print publication date: 01/12/2021

Online publication date: 19/06/2021

Acceptance date: 20/04/2021

Date deposited: 05/08/2021

ISSN (print): 1088-1980

ISSN (electronic): 1530-9290

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.


DOI: 10.1111/jiec.13157


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