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Lithium Battery Recycling Technology | Comprehensive Guide

With the rapid increase in demand for electric vehicles and portable electronic devices worldwide, the usage of lithium batteries has also surged. The generation of a large number of waste lithium batteries has made it urgent to efficiently and environmentally recycle these batteries. Currently, lithium battery recycling technology is mainly divided into three types: physical, pyrometallurgical, and hydrometallurgical methods.

Each method has its own characteristics, process flow, and economic benefits. This article will discuss these three lithium-ion battery recycling technology routes and their processes in detail, analyzing their advantages, disadvantages, and application prospects.

Physical Recycling Process (Direct recycling)

The physical method processes waste power batteries through mechanical and physical means without involving chemical reactions. The main process includes crushing, screening, magnetic separation, and fine crushing.

  1. Crushing: Waste batteries are mechanically crushed using a crusher, breaking them down into smaller particles. This step effectively disintegrates battery components, facilitating subsequent processing.
  2. Screening: The crushed particles are classified by size using screening equipment. Particles of different sizes enter different processing stages.
  3. Magnetic Separation: Magnetic separation equipment is used to separate iron-containing materials from others. Ferromagnetic materials are selected, while non-magnetic materials proceed to the next step.
  4. Fine Crushing: Further crushing the materials after magnetic separation to obtain finer particles, facilitating the extraction of valuable metals.


  • Simple Process: Easy to implement with straightforward mechanical procedures.
  • Low Cost: Requires minimal investment in equipment and operational costs.
  • Scalability: Suitable for large-scale processing of used batteries.


  • Lower Recovery Rates: Inefficient in extracting all valuable metals, leading to potential resource waste.
  • Impurity Introduction: Recovered materials may contain impurities, affecting their quality and performance.
  • Dust Generation: Mechanical processes produce a significant amount of dust, necessitating robust dust control measures.

Pyrometallurgical Recycling Process

The pyrometallurgical method involves high-temperature treatment to separate valuable metals from the battery. The process differs based on battery types and includes the following steps:

NMC Batteries:

  1. Removing Battery Casing: Manually or mechanically remove the battery casing to obtain the internal electrode material.
  2. Roasting: Add limestone and roast the materials in a high-temperature furnace. After roasting, lithium and aluminum form slag and are not recovered. Copper, nickel, cobalt, and manganese form alloys.
  3. Metal Extraction: The formed alloy is further processed to extract valuable metals like copper, nickel, cobalt, and manganese using physical or chemical methods.

LFP (lithium iron phosphate) Batteries:

Roasting: Since LFP battery electrode materials do not contain precious metals, traditional pyrometallurgical methods are not suitable. An improved pyrometallurgical technique removes organic binders through high-temperature calcination, separating LFP powder from aluminum foil.

High-temperature Synthesis: The obtained LFP material is mixed with appropriate raw materials and synthesized into new LFP by adjusting the molar ratio of lithium, iron, and phosphorus through high-temperature solid-phase reactions.


  • Simplified Process: Utilizes high-temperature treatment to separate metals, making the process relatively straightforward.
  • Handling of Various Metals: Capable of processing batteries containing a wide range of metals, particularly valuable ones.
  • Flexibility: Adaptable to different types of battery materials.


  • High Energy Consumption: Requires substantial energy for high-temperature operations, increasing operational costs.
  • Harmful Emissions: Potential release of harmful gases during the process, requiring comprehensive waste gas treatment systems.
  • Low Lithium Recovery: Difficult to recover lithium effectively, leading to resource inefficiency.

Hydrometallurgical Recycling Process

The hydrometallurgical method uses chemical solutions to dissolve metals in batteries, followed by precipitation and filtration to extract valuable metals. The process varies based on battery types:

NMC Batteries:

  1. Metal Dissolution: Dissolve the electrode materials in an acidic solution, forming a uniform metal ion solution.
  2. Co-precipitation: Add corresponding metal salts to the solution based on the proportions of nickel, cobalt, and manganese required for synthesizing NMC materials. Add a base to form a co-precipitate of metals.
  3. Sintering: Mix the co-precipitate with lithium carbonate and sinter at high temperatures to obtain regenerated NMC materials. Adjust process parameters to optimize the performance of the regenerated material.

LFP (lithium iron phosphate) Batteries:

  1. Dissolution: Dissolve the cathode materials in a strong acid, making lithium, iron, and phosphate ions dissolve in the solution.
  2. Precipitation: Add a base to the solution, forming a precipitate of lithium, iron, and phosphate ions.
  3. High-temperature Roasting: Dry and roast the precipitate at high temperatures to obtain regenerated LFP. Adjust the recovery ratio as needed to ensure the regenerated material meets performance requirements.


  • High Recovery Rates: Efficiently extracts a high percentage of valuable metals, maximizing resource utilization.
  • High Purity: Produces high-purity recovered materials, suitable for various applications.
  • Economic Benefits: Offers superior economic returns due to higher recovery rates and product quality.


  • Complex Process: Involves multiple chemical reactions and steps, making the process more complex.
  • Waste Liquid Management: Requires strict control and treatment of waste liquids to prevent environmental contamination.
  • Secondary Pollution: Potential for secondary pollution if waste liquid management is not properly handled.

Recycling Models in Different Countries

Different countries and regions adopt various recycling models for lithium batteries:

Japanese Model: Dominated by power battery manufacturers, the recycling process includes electric vehicle dealers and battery leasing companies. Battery manufacturers take primary responsibility for recycling lithium batteries, ensuring efficiency and professionalism through their expertise and equipment.

European and American Model: Industry alliances formed by battery manufacturers create recycling alliances, pooling resources to improve efficiency and economic benefits. For example, several European battery and car manufacturers have established recycling alliances to jointly develop and promote advanced recycling technologies.

Third-party Model: Specialized third-party recycling companies handle recycling, characterized by high flexibility and market orientation. However, strict regulatory systems are needed to ensure standardized and environmentally friendly recycling. Market competition among third-party battery recyclers drives technological advancement and service quality, promoting the industry’s healthy development.

Future Development Trends

Looking to the future, the lithium battery recycling industry will face more significant challenges and opportunities. With the rapid development of electric vehicles and renewable energy storage systems, the demand for lithium batteries will continue to grow, making waste battery recycling more pressing. To address this challenge, advancements in lithium battery recycling technology are needed in the following areas:

Technological Innovation: Continuously research and apply new recycling technologies to improve recovery efficiency and resource utilization. For example, using advanced material separation technologies and automated equipment to optimize physical, pyrometallurgical, and hydrometallurgical processes, reducing recycling costs and environmental impact.

Policy Support: Governments should formulate and implement policies supporting lithium battery recycling.


1. What are the main methods for recycling lithium-ion batteries?

There are three primary methods for recycling lithium-ion batteries: physical recycling, pyrometallurgical recycling, and hydrometallurgical recycling. Each method has distinct processes and advantages. Physical recycling involves mechanical processing like crushing and screening, pyrometallurgical recycling uses high-temperature treatments, and hydrometallurgical recycling employs chemical solutions to extract valuable materials from the batteries.

2. Why is inappropriate battery disposal a concern for rechargeable batteries?

Inappropriate battery disposal can lead to environmental contamination and loss of valuable materials. Lithium-ion batteries contain toxic substances and valuable critical minerals that can pollute the soil and water if not properly recycled. Efficient recycling processes help in extracting lithium and other valuable materials, reducing the environmental impact and contributing to the supply chain for clean energy technologies.

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Bluen Lee

Hello, I'm Bluen, I have over 25 years in the battery industry.
Throughout my career, I've developed a deep understanding of the battery market and kept up with the latest trends in R&D.
I'm excited to share my insights and knowledge with you through my blog.


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