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Department of Energy Commits to Ramping Up Lithium-ion Battery Recycling

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DOE launched a Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize and established an associated Battery Recycling R&D Center.

Last week, United States Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced the launch of a Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize and the establishment of an associated Battery Recycling R&D Center. These efforts aim to reclaim and recycle critical materials from lithium-based battery technology used in consumer electronics, defense, energy storage and transportation applications.

“America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical materials undermines our energy security and national security,” said Perry in a statement. “DOE [Department of Energy] will leverage the power of competition and the resources of the private sector, universities and the National Laboratories to develop innovative recycling technologies, which will bolster economic growth, strengthen our energy security and improve the environment.”

Critical materials such as lithium and cobalt are both expensive and dependent on foreign sources for production. The president’s executive order 13817 identifies the need for “developing critical minerals recycling and reprocessing technologies” as part of a broader strategy to “ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.”

The goal of the recycling prize and R&D center is to develop technologies to profitably capture 90 percent of all lithium-based battery technologies in the United States. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are collected and recycled at a rate of less than 5 percent.

The Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize will encourage American entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions to collecting, storing and transporting discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling. It will award cash prizes totaling $5.5 million to contestants in three progressive phases designed to accelerate the development of solutions from concept to prototype to demonstration.

The announcement, made at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Energy Innovation Council, also includes a $15 million investment to establish a Lithium Battery R&D Recycling Center focused on cost-effective recycling processes to recover lithium battery materials. The center will be led by Argonne National Laboratory along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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