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From Spent Lithium-ion Battery Cathode to Fuel Cells Atomic-Scale Catalyst

9 Jan 2024


Dr. Lawrence Yoon Suk LEE, from the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology, led the research "From Spent Lithium-ion Battery Cathode to Fuel Cells Atomic-Scale Catalyst," showcased at the BIP Asia Forum. The research introduces an innovative process that upcycles end-of-life lithium-ion battery (LIB) cathodes into a single-atom electrocatalyst for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). This process uses a simple partial etching strategy to convert LiFePO4-based cathodes into Fe single atom-embedded hollow carbon spheres, containing minor FeOx nanoclusters and FePO4 nanoparticles.

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(A) Upcycling Process of Spent 18650 LiFePO4 LIBs Cell: Mechanical Dismantling, Physical Separation, Post thermal Treatment, and Partial Etching and (B) Partial Etching Process of the Spent Cathode to Atomic-Scale Catalysts.

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Membrane Electrode Fabricated from Single Atom-based Catalyst (left) and Zinc-Air Battery Test Platform (right).


The resulting material demonstrates excellent ORR activity and stability in an alkaline medium, making it a valuable resource for energy conversion devices such as ammonia fuel cells and Zn-air batteries. The membrane electrode has shown great potential in practical energy conversion devices, delivering a maximum power density of 51 mW cm−2 in ammonia fuel cells and a peak power density of 185 mW cm−2 in Zn-air batteries, significantly higher than commercial Pd/C or Pt/C catalysts.

This innovative research not only addresses the issue of LIB waste management but also provides a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution for energy conversion devices. The upcycling process also holds great potential for cross-device LIB upcycling, further contributing to environmental protection.

The research represents a significant step forward in sustainable energy solutions and environmental protection.


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