Solutions: The Culmination of a Technology Breakthrough


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By Huck Fairman

A prior Solutions’ column reported on the progress that a new local company – formed by researchers at Princeton University, Princeton NuEnergy, and partnering with a Chinese institution and other contributors – had recently made in the recycling of lithium from existing batteries. With the demand for lithium skyrocketing, largely due to the burgeoning demand for batteries used by electric vehicles (EV) and energy storage, this breakthrough innovation is hugely important.

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Now Princeton NuEnergy (PNE), having been awarded a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), to further develop the efficiency of its recycling and upcycling, is ready to officially launch production of its technology, following the opening of its first “end-to-end direct lithium-ion battery (LIB) direct recycling production line” with Wistron Greentech in McKinney, Texas.

In comparison with the technologies of other lithium-ion batteries, PNE’s “direct recycling low-temperature plasma assisted separation process significantly reduces cost, environmental waste, and CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, yielding higher critical material recovery rates and material performance.” The facility in Texas will recycle not only spent EV batteries but other consumer batteries and LIB scrap.

The process was officially launched in a ceremony at Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown on April 5. PNE will work to continue to provide the best technologies for recycling,
for energy efficiency, and affordability and will continue to work with scientists from the Argonne National Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab, the National Renewable Energy Lab, and University of California Irvine to upgrade and transform its recycling techniques.

Founder and CEO Dr. Chao Yan at the launch was joined by several dignitaries including New Jersey Congressman Andy Kim (D-3), State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-16), DOE Program Manager Brian Cunningham, and Jeffrey Spangenberger, materials recycling group leader for the Argonne National Lab.

In addition to the launch announcement and ceremony, the principals and guests held a panel discussion featuring Dr. Craig Arnold, Vice Dean of Innovation at the University, Dr. Emily Carter, Andlinger Professor and Senior Advisor at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), Kathleen Coviello, chief economic transformation officer at New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA,) and moderated by Dr. Jonathan Menard, deputy director of research, PPPL.

Together PNE and the other participants celebrated its breakthrough recycling technology but also put their experiences to use in developing further energy efficiency, affordability, and global sustainability.

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