SK Innovation's battery recycling technology certified by U.S. national lab

By Lim Chang-won Posted : March 29, 2021, 13:04 Updated : March 29, 2021, 13:04

This picture released by SK Innovation shows the company's Institute of Environmental Science & Tec. [Courtesy of SK Innovation]

SEOUL -- A recycling technology developed by SK Innovation, a major electric vehicle battery maker in South Korea, has been verified by a national laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy. The company said its technology can contribute to the stabilization of material prices as well as the utilization of spent batteries.

Electric vehicle batteries use chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs. When they reach the end of life, valuable materials such as aluminum, cobalt, nickel, lithium and other types of metals can be recovered and recycled. South Korean battery makers have tried to develop technologies that can recover key materials in higher purity.

Recycling firms commonly use a wet process to recover lithium first before extracting key substances. However, the method has a limit due to a low rate of recovery and purity. SK Innovation (SKI) said its technology is considered more eco-friendly and efficient as it can drastically reduce the amount of chemicals used for recovering nickel, cobalt and manganese.

SKI said that its technology has been verified through life cycle assessment (LCA) at Argonne National Laboratory. LCA is a methodology for assessing cumulative environmental impacts throughout a product's life cycle from raw materials acquisition through production, use and disposal.

"As the world-renowned U.S. national research institute confirmed the eco-friendly nature of this technology, we expect that there will be cooperation between electric vehicle companies and SK Innovation regarding the recycling of spent batteries worldwide," the company said in a statement on March 29.

The core of SKI's technology is to recover lithium first in the form of lithium hydroxide and extract valuable metal later so that retrieved lithium can be used directly in the manufacture of high nickel materials. "SK Innovation has secured a stable and eco-friendly recycling technology that is different from competing battery manufacturers," SKI's Institute of Environmental Science & Tec head Lee Seong-jun was quoted as saying.

In October 2020, the Seoul government partnered with nine companies including Hyundai Glovis and LG Chem to start recycling businesses using discarded electric vehicle batteries. SKI has teamed up with the Hyundai auto group for an empirical cooperation process to collect spent battery packs and use them for other purposes or extract metals of economic value.
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