The pending increase in electric vehicle (EV) use worldwide will be accompanied by a growing volume of spent lithium-ion batteries requiring disassembly for resource recovery and recycling. A robotic system for tackling this tedious and sometimes hazardous task has been demonstrated at U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The robots can accelerate disassembly and make the process safer for workers while greatly increasing throughput. With this automated system, used batteries can be broken down to recover cobalt, lithium and other materials or prepared for refurbishment or repurposing for stationary storage application. The ORNLORNLtechnology eliminates the need for workers to undertake the cumbersome process of discharging batteries before manual disassembly while shielding personnel from toxic chemical exposure.

Speed is also a hallmark of the automated system, which can disassemble 100 battery stacks in the same time needed by human counterparts to process 12 by hand. The researchers plan to scale up the system for commercial use and apply the robotic disassembly technology to the recovery of magnets and metals from EV drive trains.

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