Bio-based solvent to help develop UK’s first industrial-scale car battery recycling project
YORK, UK – 30 July 2019
Biotechnology company Circa Group, who produces bio-based solvent CyreneTM from waste cellulose, is participating in an innovative project aimed at developing the first UK industrial scale capability to reclaim and reuse the most valuable components of end-of-life electrical vehicle (EV) batteries.
The R2LIB (Reclamation, Remanufacture of Lithium Ion Batteries) project is funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Faraday Battery Challenge – an initiative aimed at developing cost-effective, high-performance and recyclable automotive batteries.
According to the IEA, the global electric car fleet exceeded 5.1 million in 2018 and is estimated to reach at least 130 million by 2030. This exponential growth is expected to lead to several millions of tonnes of spent batteries in need of recycling over the next 10 years or so. R2LIB looks to tackle this challenge by establishing a new, UK supply chain for extracting and reprocessing high-value components from end of life EV batteries.
Circa’s solvent CyreneTM is specifically being used to recover polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) – a high performance polymer widely used as a binder in Li-ion battery cathodes. PVDF processing currently relies on the use of NMP – a reprotoxic solvent, which is under intense regulatory pressure. By using CyreneTM, R2LIB is helping recover a valuable polymer in a sustainable way.
As part of R2LIB, Circa is working with the University of York (who helped develop CyreneTM) and a number of other partners including M-Solv (laser & robot modules for automatic handling and dismantling of batteries), ICoNiChem (recovery of cobalt, nickel and manganese), PV3 Technologies (recycled cathode production) and WMG (national facility for battery R&D).
Dr Rob McElroy of the University of York, who is a researcher on the R2LIB project, stated, “A wide range of solvents have been investigated for the dissolution of battery grade PVDF. Very few have proved able to dissolve this high molecular weight polymer, with Cyrene being one. Early results looking at recovery from spent electrodes have indicated Cyrene’s unique properties are proving useful in separating PVDF from other black mass materials.”
Tony Duncan, CEO and co-founder of Circa Group, said, “We are proud of being part of a project looking to create a more sustainable automotive economy. Our bio-based solvent CyreneTM is once again proving to be a high-performing and more sustainable alternative to traditional solvents.”
Established in 2006, Circa Group converts waste biomass into advanced bio-based chemicals with its proprietary FuracellTM process at its prototype plant in Tasmania – a joint venture with Norske Skog. Circa’s developing product portfolio includes biosolvents, flavours and biopolymers, including CyreneTM, an alternative to traditional polar aprotic solvents. By creating renewable chemicals from cellulose, Circa is extracting value from non-food, waste biomass and addressing a gap in the market by providing bio-based, non-toxic alternatives.