Plastic recycling symbols were created as a means for the general public and the government to identify/process various plastic items on the market, such as bottles and Styrofoam products. Given the successful, longstanding implementation of these symbols, perhaps a similar identification system can be applied to li-ion battery recycling as well.
US-based ORNL (Oak Ridge National Labs) recently proposed a “Battery Identity Global Passport” which can be applied to all li-ion batteries. As an aside, all vegetables sold in Taiwan come with a QR code on the packaging, which allows buyers to check the produce’s farmer, certifying agency, and other pertinent records. Taiwanese people are thus able to track their food safety via a public, third-party verifiable mechanism. Likewise, the “Passport” proposed by ORNL will in theory allow recyclers to check the battery’s materials and corresponding recycling procedures.
Scientists and businesses alike have searched far and wide for solutions that allow for the development of higher-capacity, longer-lasting, and safer batteries. Even the electrode of li-ion batteries contains diverse materials ranging from NCM and NCA (for ternary lithium batteries), to LFP. These diverse materials require equally diverse recycling mechanisms, meaning the identification and recycling of batteries are a point of great difficulty for the aforementioned scientists and businesses.
ORNL’s proposed solution involves either stamping a QR code directly onto the li-ion battery or a computer chip that serves as the Battery Identity Global Passport. In either case, scanning the QR code or the chip yields information on recyclable materials contained in the battery in question. The ORNL team has come up with workable designs that can identify the chemical composition of batteries. These designs may see potential widespread use in the wide-ranging variety of li-ion batteries on the market today, in order to accelerate the recycling effort.
In an official press release, the ORNL again iterates the Passport’s benefits for recyclers:
“This passport can help recyclers contend with the mixed stream of materials since there’s no standard cell chemistry now for Li-ion battery production,” said ORNL’s Ilias Belharouak. “The challenge is growing as we see more of these batteries used in electric vehicles, for energy storage and in electronic devices.”