In 30 years since commercialisation, lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries have been used in an increasingly diverse range of products, starting from early generation handheld electronics to powering cars and buses. Additionally, these batteries are increasingly sought after for utilisation in energy storage applications, often paired with renewable energy generation. The continued decline in battery prices combined with the global trend toward energy grids being powered by renewable energy sources is predicted to increase the world’s cumulative energy storage capacity to 2,857GWh by 2040 , a substantial increase from the current capacity of ~545MWh , according to recent estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
These staggering projections paint an encouraging picture for how prominent li-ion-driven energy storage applications will become in the future as the world increases usage of renewable, clean energy sources to power energy grids worldwide. Driven increasingly by electro-mobility as well as grid-scale energy storage applications, the volume of li-ion battery cells being sold is set to surge. The graph in Figure 2 contextualises the relative volume (in tonnes) of new li-ion battery cells forecasted to be sold through to 2025. The growing quantities of li-ion batteries being placed on the markets accelerates the urgency with which the world must find an economically viable, commercial-scale recycling solution for end-of-lifecycle li-ion batteries to be recycled at a ‘mega’ scale. This article will take a closer look at some of the challenges that exist today within the li-ion recycling sector and where opportunities exist to overcome the current roadblocks.
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