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Trumpf laser process enables recycling of batteries on ‘industrial scale’

19 Jun 2024

Used power sources, such as from e-vehicles, can be cut up safely and valuable raw materials saved.

For the first time, carmakers and battery manufacturers can now recycle used or defective batteries from electric cars on an industrial scale using laser technology from high-tech company Trumpf. The firm develops laser systems that cut used batteries safely and can extract the valuable raw materials from the battery foil.

“Recycling batteries makes ecological sense and, thanks to laser technology, can now also be implemented economically. Trumpf can draw on extensive expertise in laser welding and cutting for the production of e-car batteries. We have been working with all leading car and battery manufacturers for years. We have incorporated this experience into the development of the new processes,” said Hagen Zimer, CEO of Laser Technology at the Ditzingen, Germany-based company.

The high-tech company will present the new laser processes for the first time at the leading trade fair for battery technology, Battery Show Europe 2024, taking place this week, June 18th-20th, in Stuttgart, Germany.

Without valuable raw materials such as cobalt, lithium or nickel, there are currently no electric car batteries. However, the extraction of these raw materials is expensive and not always sustainable. Manufacturers also have to accept long and uncertain supply chains. In addition, the EU requires a recycling rate of up to 90 percent for batteries.

‘Large market’ for recycling e-car batteries

“The industry therefore has to recycle on a large scale. The market for laser processes for recycling batteries, which is currently emerging, is huge,” commented Alexander Sauer, head of Stuttgart-based Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA). In Europe alone, the industry will have to recycle 570,000 tons of battery material annually from 2030.

Electrodes for new battery cells are created as foil strips coated with valuable materials such as cobalt and nickel. In a future recycling plant, laser processes can remove the wafer-thin layer from the foil. Manufacturers can then collect the precious dust and process it for new coatings. Until now, it was not uncommon for kilometers of coated foils to end up as waste in the garbage, Trumpf stated.

In the future, laser technology could also be used to recycle battery packs. Laser technology is the only way to ensure efficient and automated dismantling, for example to remove the covers from batteries or to cut off cables.

The raw materials can then be sorted and the battery cells that are still usable can be separated and reused directly. Until now, dismantling electric car batteries has been a manual process, which is typically laborious, slow and sometimes hazardous for workers.

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