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Designing Recycling Processes

WP5.1 Holistic Assessment of Sustainability
WP5.3 Process Optimisation
WP5.4 Design for Recycling

Designing Recycling Processes

Work Stream 5

To maximise the amount of a battery pack recycled and minimise cost and CO2 emissions, a two pronged approach is needed: i) improving and developing the recycling process; and ii) improving pack / module / cell design to enable effective recycling and consideration of all the lifecycle, not only the first / intended use.

Improvements in design for recycling could include changing use of adhesives within modules and packs to ones that are soluble or able to be disengaged, or the interconnectivity of anode or cathode current collectors that allow simple and repeatable extraction of individual electrodes effectively.

To supporting existing partners, a new partner with extensive manufacturing and scale up expertise would be ideal to support this work that looks at taking ideas beyond initial concepts/sketches and can examine the manufacturing implications and impacts of changes in design.

To understand if a recycling process is better than manufacture from new material or from different recycling pathways it is essential to undertake technoeconomic assessment (TEA) to evaluate process economics and life cycle analysis (LCA) and to evaluate the CO2 released, energy used and feasibility of a process, encompassing the lifecycle from manufacture to repeated remanufacture.

This work is not funded currently in ReLiB on a whole process or life cycle approach, though valuable insights are being gleaned at a local or limited process level. For TEA and LCA to be effective, impartial and valuable, the project seeks a new partner to guide the current team. Complementary work has begun at Imperial College London to undertake a wider interproject lifecycle LCA approach.

This work stream is designed to guide and inform the commercialisation activities of the ReLiB Technology Platform Implementation Plan.


Holistic Assessment of Sustainability


The relative sustainability of batteries is a highly complex calculation, requiring more than just their carbon footprints. Existing tools do not consider trade-offs across the full circular lifecycle, rarely including impacts incurred though end-of-life processing. Existing LCA studies are inconsistent, having significantly different assumptions and boundaries.


Upcoming EU regulations will require the battery ecosystem to introduce sustainable practices for batteries across their life cycle and promote a circular economy. The assessment needs to be based on sound methodology and data. UK industry has an urgent need for reliable, consistent tools to measure the costs and benefits holistically.


Develop a holistic framework for assessing battery technologies, covering the circular lifecycle and tracking cost, performance and sustainability metrics across the value chain to integrate with PyBaMM’s and PRISM’s degradation models.


  • 1 PDRA @Imperial
  • Software licenses: A2Mac1, Ecoinvent, SimaPro


  1. Determine suitable figures of merit for comparing sustainability holistically, including new measures for recyclability
  2. Assess trade-offs across the circular value chain
  3. Develop open source, easy to use and extensible tools, perhaps based on open LCA, for life cycle assessment of battery cells and packs, ensuring all life cycle stages are adequately covered, all impact factors and costs are included and appropriate metrics reported
  4. Work with WP2 to develop and integrate techno-economics and life cycle assessment into PyBaMM, for use as design tools


  • Guidelines on appropriate figures of merit
  • Tools for determining holistic impact factors
  • Integration into PyBaMM design tools


Life Cycle and Technoeconomic Analysis


To evaluate the work within the project we need to consider technical aspects of the processes, techniques and technology plus the potential environmental and economic impact of recycling; and how decisions and processes impact choices around manufacture and design, along with the effective process for recycling.

Technoeconomic analysis (TEA) will evaluate the technical performance and economic feasibility of technologies developed. Life cycle assessment (LCA) will evaluate the potential environmental impacts associated with processes developed within the project, and how changes in manufacture or approach can impact an EV battery throughout its life cycle from manufacture to remanufacture.

TEA and LCA will be undertaken at single step and, importantly, whole process level to understand the significance of any economic and environmental benefits.


  1. Undertake LCA and TEA of ReLiB previous phases technologies as a whole process, to complement the existing single step analyses conducted previously
  2. Identify and evaluate bottlenecks within the recycling process
  3. Understand the process route that is most economic and/or minimises environmental impact as a function of key variables e.g. plant size, battery chemistry, degree of automation etc.

What is Involved

Processes within the project are becoming sufficiently well characterised so more detailed analysis is appropriate; the project requires the expertise of a partner to guide and define the LCA / TEA undertaken within the scope of the project.

This will be used to guide the research towards technology and processes likely to be effective recycling methods in the future. This work will be used to inform commercialisation activities in the ReLiB Technology Platform Implementation Plan.


Process Optimisation


This package will consider the chemical and process engineering needed to deliver an effective recycling plant, going beyond proof of principle to understand heat and mass transfer, chemical engineering thermodynamics, reaction engineering, hydrodynamics etc. This work will consider the space and orientation best suited to designing a battery recycling centre. It will provide ReLiB with expertise on scale-up from grammes to kilogrammes to several tonnes, where the impact on solvents, heating etc will be considered.

In the future Industry 4.0 compatible recycling facilities will need to be more akin to product manufacturing facilities, designed, engineered and operated in a very different way to current vehicle recycling plants.

The transition from recycling 2.0 through 3.0 to 4.0, mean thought and consideration must be given to understand how plants can be future-proofed through retooling and upgrading to stay at the forefront of recycling technology and remain economically viable for the long term.


  1. Evaluate recycling plant attached to a battery manufacturing facility to process QA-rejected and production scrap generated during battery manufacture
  2. Investigate how to retool a current shred-and-sort pilot plant to incorporate advanced valorisation of black mass to enable production of higher purity carbonates and sulphates
  3. Develop design concepts and frameworks to maximise plant efficiency considering layout and processing, understanding the relative footprints and requirements of different steps and processes
  4. Report on limiting factors in developing, retooling and upgrading recycling facilities in the future

What is Involved

This would now also work for the project, with a collaboration partner who can bring a track record in designing manufacturing sites. They would support existing efforts around designing for current and future recycling processes. This work will be used to inform commercialisation activities in the ReLiB Technology Platform Implementation Plan.


Design for Recycling


With the current focus on high performance batteries and cars to increase short term sales, limited thought has been given how these packs will be reused or recycled. This package considers design elements associated with packs, modules, cells and coatings used in EV batteries, building on previous phases and development work in WP4.2, where significant challenges have been observed around adhesives used, pack layout for removing modules and crimping of module modules.

The intention is to seek to guide manufacturers and vehicle designers, and influence policy, to enable recycling to be as easy, and cost-effective and possible. This will be achieved in conjunction with WP5.1 where changes in design are evaluated across the whole lifecycle with respect to economic benefit and environmental impact.


  1. Evaluate glues, adhesives and binders designed to facilitate efficient disassembly
  2. Evaluate designs to improve the ability to separate anode, cathode and separators with respect to different formats and in-use performance, manufacturing complexity and recycling savings
  3. Develop design concepts and frameworks that seek to maximize the recovery rates of materials within the pack, and minimize the complexity and time of disassembly

What is Involved

To exploit knowledge and experience gained in previous phases, ReLiB requires collaboration with a partner who can bring a strong track record in design and understanding to the area, and could support existing efforts to develop design principles, understand their full impact and support their exploitation.