As the production and consumption of lithium ion batteries (LIBs) increase, the recycling of spent LIBs appears inevitable from an environmental, economic and health viewpoint. The leaching behavior of Ni, Mn, Co, Al and Cu from treated cathode active materials, which are separated from a commercial LIB pack in hybrid electric vehicles, is investigated with ammoniacal leaching agents based on ammonia, ammonium carbonate and ammonium sulfite. Ammonium sulfite as a reductant is necessary to enhance leaching kinetics particularly in the ammoniacal leaching of Ni and Co. Ammonium carbonate can act as a pH buffer so that the pH of leaching solution changes little during leaching. Co and Cu can be fully leached out whereas Mn and Al are hardly leached and Ni shows a moderate leaching efficiency. It is confirmed that the cathode active materials are a composite of LiMn2O4, LiCoxMnyNizO2, Al2O3 and C while the leach residue is composed of LiNixMnyCozO2, LiMn2O4, Al2O3, MnCO3 and Mn oxides. Co recovery via the ammoniacal leaching is believed to gain a competitive edge on convenitonal acid leaching both by reducing the sodium hydroxide expense for increasing the pH of leaching solution and by removing the separation steps of Mn and Al.
Keywords: Ammoniacal leaching; Cathode; Cobalt; Lithium ion battery; Recycling.
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