Empa and Kyburz want to recycle batteries gently


Dübendorf/Freienstein ZH – The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) and Kyburz are cooperating on a project to recycle lithium-ion batteries in a way that conserves resources. A pilot plant is testing how materials can be recovered by type.

The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research(Empa) and Kyburz Switzerland AG, a mobility and transport solutions company based in Freienstein, have entered into a cooperation agreement for recycling lithium-ion batteries. According to a press release from the federal government, the recovery of the materials is to be designed in a way that is particularly resource-conserving and pure. To this end, Empa and the manufacturer of electric vehicles based in the canton of Zurich have created a pilot plant in which used batteries will be broken down into their components and returned to the production cycle. In contrast to conventional processes, in which old batteries are shredded and the recyclable materials separated by means of thermal and wet chemical processes, the new technology is designed to break down the battery step by step into its individual components.

“In this type of battery, the cathode, separator and anode are installed in several layers in a plastic housing,” Andrin Büchel, an Empa researcher from the Technology and Society department, is quoted as saying in the release. By cleverly unrolling the separator, the cathodes and the anodes (metal foils coated with particles to allow lithium ions to be stored) are sorted into two separate bins. “At the end of the recycling process, we get back the housing, the separator, the aluminum and copper foils, and the electrode materials, all sorted by type,” Büchel said.

The new process is called “direct recycling” by the research institutions involved. In a further phase of the pilot project, research is currently being conducted into how the recovered materials can be returned to the economic cycle. The project is supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy(SFOE). ce/ww