Development of Efficient and Scalable Direct Recycling Technology for Lithium-Ion Batteries

The Regents of California, San Diego


La Jolla, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Update

UCSD accomplished the following key achievements in the project so far. A majority of the batteries (including cylindrical and pouch type LFP, NCA, and LCO) shredded resulted in large pieces >4000um that can be blended further to decrease the size, allow the material to delaminate, and achieve clean black mass with little aluminum and copper. Blending and sieving enabled sorting of black mass from shreds, completely removing the plastic separator. Both magnetic separation and froth flotation separation methods were verified. Magnetic separation roughly separated LFP cathode pieces from graphite anode pieces, but struggled with separating NCM/LCO; froth flotation was more effective at NCM/LCO separation. The froth flotation process needs to be further optimized to improve the separation efficiency. The project team is also working on the Purification-Regeneration Integrated Materials Engineering ("PRIME") process, which is developed to effectively regenerate critical cathode materials. Currently, the team is optimizing the PRIME process for NMC811 with high nickel content.

The Issue

Lithium Ion Batteries (LIBs) will play a central role in transitioning California's electricity and transportation sectors to becoming zero emission over the coming decades. The combined retirements of grid-connected stationary storage and plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) will reach the end of the warrantied service life in growing volumes during this time. Despite containing valuable and critical materials, LIBs have limited established economic pathways for collection, evaluation, reuse, and recycling when they reach the end of life. LIBs have varying complex structures, compositions, and designs optimized across competing performance criteria with different manufacturer-specific proprietary implementations. This heterogeneity makes development of scalable processes for recycling challenging. Technology advancements can help transform used LIBs from a liability to a valuable resource.

Project Innovation

The recipient is developing an efficient and scalable direct recycling for lithium-ion batteries (LIB) that is flexible across different cathode chemistries and applicable to stationary storage systems and PEV batteries at end of life. The project will demonstrate advancements towards an economical and high-value LIB recycling process via efficient sorting and separation of spent batteries, safe and low-cost direct regeneration methods, high-purity and high-quality returned materials with the equivalent performance to virgin materials, low carbon footprint, and increased profitability and scalability, leading to viable pathways for rapid scale-up and successful commercialization.

Project Goals

Achieve 95% recovery yield of various LIB cathodes and anode materials from spent EV and stationary storage batteries.
Achieve >99% purity of cathodes and graphite anode after regeneration process, and demonstrate >99% capacity retention.
Demonstrate the process in a pilot operation scale of 5 kg/day and a process time of 1 day/cycle.
Demonstrate energy consumption of <3 kWh/kg cathode and <2 kWh/kg anode.
Achieve operational costs of <$5/kg for NMC and NCA cathodes and <$2/kg for LMO, LFP, and graphite anode.

Project Benefits

The project team has built unique strengths in this development from previous research projects funded by CEC and federal agencies. With the support of the EPIC program, the team will further improve the efficiency of unit operations, leading to future commercialization efforts to establish direct recycling capacity in California. As California's clean energy goals continue driving adoption of LIBs for stationary storage and PEV applications, this project will help overcome barriers to enable sustainable recycling pathways for LIBs when they reach end of life.

Lower Costs


As the materials cost represents 50-70% of the total battery cost in ESS and PEVs, successful recycling and regeneration of spent LIB using low-cost processes will have the potential to significantly reduce overall battery costs. The project aims to achieve an operational cost of <$5/kg for NMC and NCA cathodes and <$2/kg for LMO, LFP, and graphite anode.

Increase Safety


The goals of the Project are to develop and scale up advanced direct regeneration technologies to recycle and reuse spent LIBs for the benefit of both recapturing valuable materials and mitigating environmental pollution.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Zheng Chen

Associate Professor
UC San Diego



American Lithium Energy Corp.


Smartville, Inc.


iQ International AG


Match Partners


American Lithium Energy Corp.


Smartville, Inc.


iQ International AG


UC San Diego Sustainable Power and Energy Center


UC San Diego- Jacobs School of Engineering


UC San Diego- Center for Energy Research


UC San Diego- Department of NanoEngineering


Contact the Team