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Material flow analysis on critical raw materials of lithium-ion batteries in China

Song, Jiali, Yan, Wenyi, Cao, Hongbin, Song, Qingbin, Ding, He, Lv, Zheng, Zhang, Yi, Sun, Zhi
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.215 pp. 570-581
cobalt, graphene, guidelines, industry, issues and policy, lithium batteries, management systems, markets, material flow analysis, models, nickel, raw materials, risk, sustainable development, waste management, wastes, China
Sustainable growth of the lithium-ion battery (LIB) industry requires a safe supply of raw materials and proper end-of-life management for products. The lack of research on domestic critical raw materials and on management systems has limited the formulation of relevant policies for LIB-related industries. Here, a critical raw material (CRM) evaluation model was developed to identify the criticality associated with the supply risk (SR) and economic importance (EI) of different materials for the Chinese LIB industry. Dynamic materials flow analyses of the relevant critical materials were carried out by integrating a trade-linked model. Criticality analysis identifies the importance of different materials and optimizes the subsequent materials flow analysis. The results showed that the in-use stocks share large portions of material flow for Li, Ni, Co and graphite and further suggests that the market will not be saturated before 2025. For the end-of-life stage, less than 40 wt% of the materials in LIBs can be recycled under the current scheme of materials flow in China; this finding puts significant pressure on proper waste management. Consequently, it is very important to identify effective methods for utilizing the growing amount of waste materials and to provide a resource supplement for the Chinese LIB industry. This research provides guidelines for improving management strategies relevant to the critical materials in the LIB industry, for increasing resource efficiency, and for managing critical resources.