The U.S. Department of Energy, in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is hoping to accelerate efforts to collect, store and transport spent and discarded lithium ion batteries through its Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize. It's part of DOE's "American-Made Challenges" contest series.
The idea of the $5.5-million prize is to encourage entrepreneurs and others to find innovative ways to capture 90 percent of the spent lithium-based batteries in the U.S. and recover 90 percent of the key materials, such as cobalt and lithium, from the collected batteries.
"They are hazardous to the environment, but they contain a significant amount of valuable material that can be re-fed back to the supply chain," said Lei Pan, a Michigan Technological University assistant professor of chemical engineering focusing on battery recycling.
Some teams are tackling collection challenges. Others are focused on separation and sorting, safe storage and transport, or "reverse logistics" — minimizing the cost of moving batteries out of end users' hands to recycling facilities.
The competition launched in February. Fifteen teams passed the first round in late September, based on their business concepts.
Those teams are participating in the second round, which focuses on proofs of concept. Those selected after this yearlong phase will design a real-world pilot of their technology in the third and final phase, which will take 15 months.