I can't manage to find any information about the recycling process and the chemistry behind it. The only thing I see everywhere on the internet - is a guide like this:

  • Step 1 - Discharge the battery.
  • Step 2 - Store at room temperature.
  • End of the article.

I have a DELL XPS15 battery, slightly swollen. And when I asked local repair service about recycling - they said: "nobody recycling Li-Pol here" (in my city).

So I decided to investigate this topic. Any idea where I can start?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not too sure about lithium-polymer batteries unfortunately but I've been dong a lot of reading on lithium ion battery recycling and one of the reasons they have such a poor recycling rate is because they have a lot of different components and it's not usually standardised between manufacturers. Meanwhile lead-acid batteries have a recycling rate of I think 99% in the US since the components are more simple. There's a lot of research on it at the moment though! I'd be cautious about discharging the battery yourself since depending on the electrolyte it can cause the release of HF. If you li $\endgroup$ – Liv Jan 18 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ I'll be careful. The Battery itself works (was) fine. I noticed the problem in the early stage, so I guess I can discharge it with my laptop. Anyway, seems the process is not very easy for "make it home", so I most likely will send this battery to the factory in Romania. (closest one) But still very curious about the recycling process. $\endgroup$ – vovchisko Jan 18 at 15:37

Lithium ion batteries are pretty poorly recycled as is and so when I was looking through literature reviews I found only one mention of lithium ion polymer batteries being recycled. The paper that was using this method was also recycling lithium ion batteries the same way though so it wasn't clear if anything different had to be done.

The main thing that seems to be different with lithium ion polymer batteries is just the electrolyte. The electrolyte is often not recycled anyway since the main focus is typically on recycling the cathode because it contains cobalt and/or nickel and is profitable to recycle.

If you want a more detailed overview of the different processes lithium ion batteries are recycled this review is open access and explains the ways different companies currently recycle lithium ion batteries: https://www.mdpi.com/2313-0105/5/4/68

There's no mention of lithium polymer batteries in the review but this patent mentions recycling lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries together so I assume some of the same methods can be used: https://patents.google.com/patent/US8979006B2/en

There's no standard method for recycling lithium ion batteries but usually methods involve mechanical, pyrometallurgical and/or hydrometallurgical processing. Usually the batteries are first discharged and then shredded or dismantled.

If mechanical processing is carried out it usually relies on different physical properties in the materials that allow it to separate out components. For example, the electrodes are a fine powder so if you put the shredded battery through a sieve you can separate the electrodes from the other materials. The cathode and anode can also be separated using froth filtration since they have different hydrophobicities. This can allow the cathode to be isolated and further processed to obtain metals like cobalt if the battery has a lithium cobalt oxide cathode. The review goes into more detail about the other mechanical steps that can be carried out but there's quite a lot of them.

Pyrometallurgical processes involve putting the battery in a furnace and you end up with an alloy of metals (containing cobalt, nickel and iron usually) and a slag (containing aluminium, lithium, manganese and some other metals). The metals in the alloy can then be extracted.

Hydrometallurgical processes involve using solvents to leach metals. This is generally combined with other methods like mechanical processing so the battery components you have are slightly more homogenous and easier to process. Sulfuric acid is the most common acid used to leach cobalt from lithium cobalt oxide. The leached metals can be precipitated out and recovered.

It's a bit difficult to clearly explain how lithium ion batteries are recycled since it does seem like every company does it differently. This just mentions some of the processes that are being used at the moment but there's lots more as well that are being researched. I know this doesn't clearly mention how lithium polymer batteries are recycled but I hope it's of some help anyway!

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your detailed answer, @Liv! I got the main point - it's much more complicated than it might seem and not a good idea attempting to do it home. I hope the industry will go forward and batterie's production will become more waste-free soon. I'll go through the links - it looks very interesting topic. Thank you very much! $\endgroup$ – vovchisko Jan 20 at 21:11

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