A green closed-loop process for selective recycling of lithium from spent lithium-ion batteries†
As the economy started to recover from the COVID pandemic, the price of Li2CO3 skyrocketed to its highest. This situation has aggravated concerns about the supply chain for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). Recycling spent LIBs is a potential solution to alleviate the bottleneck of the supply chain and prevent environmental pollution, and has attracted lots of attention. However, lithium recycling is generally disregarded because of the complex recycling process and its low recycling efficiency. Here, in this work we developed a sustainable lithium recovery process, which can selectively leach and recover lithium with formic acid before recycling valuable metals. With the reported method, lithium can be 99.8% recovered from layered oxide cathode materials with 99.994% purity. In addition, this lithium recovery process is affordable, compared to the typical hydrometallurgical process, by saving 11.15% per kilogram of spent LIBs. Therefore, this research provided a new solution to eliminating the effects of lithium ions on valuable metal separation and the co-precipitation reaction and precluding the influence of other metal ions on lithium recovery. This simplified lithium recovery process provides new opportunities for sustainable recycling of LIBs and economical restoration of the lithium supply chain.