Little work in nanotechnology environment, health and safety implications is directed toward complex nanomaterials and their life cycles. Fundamental studies currently have mainly examined simple, homogeneous materials comprised of a single metal, metal oxide, or a simple organic moiety. Nanomaterials in commerce have moved well beyond these simple, ?first generation? materials. This research is directed toward examining impacts of high volume nanomaterials in commerce, specifically LiFePO4 and LiMnO4 in lithium-ion batteries throughout their life cycle with a particular focus on end of life and the potential for exposure. The investigators will optimize recycling and reuse procedures for nano lithium batteries while simultaneously assessing environmental discharges of particles (during recycling processing) and leachates from modeled landfills using a standard Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) procedure.
To date there has been no work that explicitly addresses the environmental implications of nano-scale materials in batteries, despite recognition of considerable environmental uncertainties and concern at end-of life. This research will provide results and methodological guidance for quantifying environmental risks at end-of-life for two commonly used nano-scale cathode chemistry batteries. The investigation will advance the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) body of knowledge related to the use of lithium ion batteries by creating new Life Cycle Impact data, quantifying potential end of life battery risks, developing knowledge on novel recycling techniques, and identifying best practices for ensuring environmental health and safety goals for nano-scale cathode materials.
The research team is well-suited to address the problem from both a life cycle approach and a materials science/analytical approach. They include a materials engineer, an environmental engineer and a chemist, with expertise in the chemistry of lithium ion batteries, life cycle assessment, nanomaterials, and recycling.
The project has an inherent broader impact on society as a whole, as it should lead directly to improved recycling and synthesis methods for nanoparticles in lithium ion batteries. It is clear that the existing industry partners of the research team will benefit from the research and this will lead to improved, "greener" production and disposal methods. Also, the investigators are associated with a sustainability institute at RIT, and this institute seems to have very strong programs in outreach and education. There are clear plans and procedures to increase participation by underrepresented groups.