Globally, olivine-type lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4, LFP) batteries have gained a considerable share within the lithium ion battery market (23-36% in 2015-2016). However, no dedicated, economically-viable, industrial-scale recycling process exists for LFP-type lithium-ion batteries in Europe or elsewhere. ACROBAT wants to change that.

The importance of recycling LFP lithium-ion batteries

LFP batteries contain three EU-critical raw materials (EU-CRMs), namely 0.8 wt.% lithium, 2.5 wt.% phosphorus and 16 wt.% graphite on battery cell basis. Efficient recycling of LFP lithium-ion batteries is also required from an environmental point of view as the electrolyte contains toxic agents. 

ACROBAT aims to recycle end-of-life LFP lithium-ion batteries via efficient, innovative and environmentally-friendly processes and separation techniques to recover a maximum amount of EU-CRMs as high-value products and base metals (ferrous and Cu/Al fractions). 

The potential to recover >10,000 t/y of EU-critical raw materials by 2030

The specific ACROBAT objectives are to research, develop and validate

  • LFP-dedicated pre-treatment (i.e., shredding, mechanical separation) with reduced cross-contamination 
  • continuous, contact-free, in-line characterisation of LFP black mass 
  • extractive recovery of electrolyte materials (i.e., conducting salts, organic solvents) 
  • recovery of graphite by froth flotation 
  • recovery of lithium as battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate by HCl-based hydro-/solvometallurgy 
  • direct recycling of LFP black mass by tandem hydrometallurgy-hydrothermal synthesis.  

The sustainability of the ACROBAT flowsheet will be evaluated by a life cycle assessment. 

Overall, the ACROBAT consortium (VITO, ENEA, Fraunhofer ILT, KU Leuven, Accurec) aims to recover 90% of the EU-CRMs (Li, P and graphite) and recycle LFP cathode material, graphite and electrolyte, respectively up to 5.4, 6.2 and 4.4 kt/y by 2030 in Europe. This would represent an overall value of 180 M€. 

ACROBAT’s Industrial Advisory Board (Umicore, Bebat, Sortbat and Electrocycling) will catalyse the industrial valorisation of the project results. 

The ACROBAT project is selected for funding by ERA-NET Cofund on Raw Materials (ERA-MIN3).