Graphmatech, Graphenea, and Northvolt have succeeded in up-cycling end-of-life EV batteries into graphene oxide at industrial pilot scale. This breakthrough uses the material left after Northvolt has extracted valuable metals and minerals. Until now, that remaining material has been waste.
Emma Nehrenheim, Chief Environmental Officer of Northvolt, states: The upcycling of graphene oxide from recycled batteries represents a great development in our pursuit of a sustainable battery industry in Europe. Batteries contain an abundance of valuable materials which we can recover to reduce our dependence on mining and producing fresh materials. We are proud to have contributed to this development.
Northvolt has supported Graphmatech by optimizing its recycling process at Northvolt Labs recycling plant to obtain a feed of graphite-based material for Graphmatech of sufficient purity to enable upcycling into graphene oxide.
Graphene oxide is a strategic material that European companies often source from outside the region. Graphmatech and Graphena will now scale up production to deliver an ample European supply of graphene oxide.
Graphmatech uses modified graphene oxide in materials and products it delivers to support the green transition, including hydrogen pressure vessels and pipes that leak 40% less hydrogen than current technology.
Modified graphene oxide can be added to metals to create materials which are more conductive, stronger and tougher than alternatives, whilst reducing metal consumption, making it an attractive and useful material within the green transition.
Jesus de la Fuente, CEO of Graphenea Advanced Materials, states: “Producing graphene oxide from end-of-life batteries makes the entire graphene value chain more sustainable and cost effective.
In May, Northvolt–Hydro battery recycling joint venture Hydrovolt began commercial recycling operations in Fredrikstad, southern Norway. Hydrovolt is Europe’s largest electric vehicle battery recycling plant, capable of processing approximately 12,000 tons of battery packs per year (around 25,000 EV batteries). With the plant now online, a sustainable solution for handling Norway’s entire volume of electric vehicle batteries being retired from the market, or reaching end-of-life, is now available.
Integrated with a novel process design, Hydrovolt can recover and isolate some 95% of the materials in a battery including, plastics, copper, aluminum and black mass (a compound containing nickel, manganese, cobalt and lithium). Several novel concepts designed to maximise recovery of materials are found within the plant, including a dust collection system which ensures valuable material typically lost through mechanical recycling steps is captured.
Hydrovolt is exploring an expansion of recycling capacity within Europe, with a long-term target to recycle approximately 70,000 tons of battery packs by 2025 and 300,000 tons of battery packs by 2030, equivalent to approximately 150,000 EV batteries in 2025 and 500,000 in 2030.