FREE4LIB EU-funded project

Start date: 1 September 2022 - End date: 31 August 2026

Feasible recovery of critical raw materials through a new circular ecosystem for a Li-ion battery cross-value chain in Europe


The transport sector is responsible for around one quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles can contribute significantly to the decarbonisation of future road transport. But lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) remain an obstacle: they are not green enough to sufficiently reduce mobility footprints. Recycling is the answer. However, the recovery of lithium is a complicated process that the EU-funded FREE4LIB project aims to simplify. It will develop technologies to achieve six new sustainable and efficient processes to recycle end-of-life LIBs. The project will also deliver three processes aimed at reuse of metals and polymers and electrode synthesis for remanufacturing new LIB battery packs based on the design for recycling. The use of Battery Passports will overcome the current lack of access to open data in the LIB value chain.

The negative environmental impacts results from the linear ‘take, make, dispose’ and dominant economic models of our time, traditionally adopted by decision-making of main stakeholders around mobility are changing thank to EV’s irruption, but Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIBs) are not yet green enough to reduce mobility footprint to lowest levels. Thus, recycling has to be developed to achieve higher efficiencies and recovery rates to reintroduce Critical Raw Materials from End-of-Life (EOL) LIBs. Recycling technology is still at the lab-scale due to the complex structure of EOL LIBs. Currently, pyro-metallurgy is the most applied method in the industry. Although this process does not need pre-treatment, its energy-wasting, the equipment investment is large and it will cause serious pollution. In response to these problems, many companies have developed hydrometallurgical processes, that can recover Li and Al with low energy consumption. However, it requires pre-treatment, leaching, purification and other steps, and it could be a long way. FREE4LIB aims to develop at TRL 5-6 technologies to achieve 6 new sustainable and efficient processes to recycle EOL LIBs (dismantling, pre-treatment and 4 materials recovery processes) delivering innovative recycling solutions to reach highly efficient materials recovery (metal oxides, metals and polymers) improving the supply of secondary resources at EU level. FREE4LIB also will deliver 3 processes aiming at metals and polymers re-using and electrode synthesis for re-manufacturing new LIBs, and it will study options to harness non-reusable elements. It will also deliver a Battery Passport (BP) methodology to improve processes traceability. Besides, 2 Open Platforms will be deployed: BP and Data-driven models for the process’s optimisation. At end, to validate and spread FREE4LIB: new LIBs will be assembled on battery packs and engagement activities with citizens, policymakers and battery stakeholder will be carried out, respectively.

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