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Recycling rechargeable lithium ion batteries: Critical analysis of natural resource savings

TitleRecycling rechargeable lithium ion batteries: Critical analysis of natural resource savings
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsDewulf J, Van der Vorst G, Denturck K, Van Langenhove H, Ghyoot W, Tytgat J, Vandeputte K
Journal TitleResources, Conservation and Recycling
ISBN Number0921-3449
KeywordsCumulative Exergy Extraction from the Natural Environment (CEENE), exergy, Lithium mixed metal oxide battery, Rechargeable battery, Resource saving
AbstractRechargeable Li-ion battery applications in consumer products are fastly growing, resulting in increasing resources demand: it is for example estimated that battery applications account for nearly 25% of the worldwide cobalt demand in 2007. It is obvious that recycling of batteries may help saving natural resources. However, it is not straightforward to quantify to what extent rechargeable battery recycling saves natural resources, given their complex composition, and the complex international production chain. In this paper, a detailed analysis of a lithium mixed metal oxide battery recycling scenario, where cobalt and nickel are recovered and re-introduced into the battery production chain, is compared with a virgin production scenario. Based on detailed data acquisition from processes spread worldwide, a resource saving analysis is made. The savings are quantified in terms of exergy and cumulative exergy extracted from the natural environment. It turns out that the recycling scenario result in a 51.3% natural resource savings, not only because of decreased mineral ore dependency but also because of reduced fossil resource (45.3% reduction) and nuclear energy demand (57.2%).
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