Skill and Scale up: Materials, value chain and recycling of a LIB

What raw materials are needed to manufacture batteries and how can they be recycled?

Brief recap: The lithium-ion battery consists of several anode, cathode and separator layers that are soaked in a liquid electrolyte (more on this in second blog post). The performance of the cell, such as its energy density, fast-charging capability or service life (third blog article), is largely determined by their cell materials. 

The heart of electromobility, the battery, is unfortunately also its most expensive component, accounting for around fifty percent of total costs (in the case of an electric car). Current prices of battery packs amount to around 137 euros per kilowatt hour.[1] The materials of the battery components, which are a key factor in determining their performance figures, account for a large proportion of the costs. In view of the increasing demand, it is therefore important in the long term to research alternative technologies that use other materials (e.g. cobalt-free cathodes or sodium-based cell chemistries) and recycling options. The seventh blog article in our "Skill and Scale-up" information campaign explains the basics of battery (raw) materials and recycling.

Ein Bild, das ein Periodensystem zeigt
© Fraunhofer FFB
Für die Batterieproduktion kritische Rohstoffe wie Lithium sind in der Erdkruste nur in geringen Mengen vorhanden.

Raw materials of lithium-ion batteries and their supply chains 


The materials used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries can be divided into critical raw materials[1] and raw materials with higher availability and therefore lower costs.

Lithium-ion batteries rely on critical components such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and natural graphite. These materials are currently sourced from countries outside of Europe, primarily Asia (especially China), making the supply chain for battery raw materials and refinement heavily dependent on these regions. However, Europe is gradually establishing a sustainable, local supply chain for battery materials. Although larger quantities of sodium, iron, aluminum, and copper are available, they may also be used to replace lithium in sodium-ion batteries, which are being considered as a viable alternative to Li-ion batteries. The most commonly used anode material in current cell designs is synthetic graphite although small amounts of silicon are used in the anode of batteries with high energy density. For the cathode, NMC, a ceramic layered compound of lithium and the transition metals nickel, manganese, and cobalt oxide, or the inexpensive and safe material LFP (lithium iron phosphate) is usually used.


Material flows in the production of lithium-ion batteries

Battery cell production involves three steps: electrode production, assembly, and formation. During these steps, active and passive materials are combined using different mechanical, physical, and chemical processes to create a functioning cell. The composition and production process can vary depending on the cell design. For instance, the materials used in the production of a lithium-ion pouch cell are briefly outlined in the table below.


Electrode production

Dosage: The recipe is determined.


    Anode: Graphite, binder, CB and solvent (deionized water) are mixed to form a paste.

    Cathode: NMC, binder (e.g. PVdF)) and a conductive additive such as carbon black (CB) and the solvent NMP are mixed to form a slurry paste.

    Coating & Drying: 

    Anode: The slurry is applied to the copper foil

    Cathode: The slurry is applied to aluminum foil.

Calendering: Compaction and smoothing of the electrode foils

Slitting: Cutting the films

Vacuum drying



In simple terms, the electrode foils are combined with the following materials to form a pouch cell during assembly:




    Housing or cover



In the final process step, the cells are energized and the forming gases are discharged - no further material is required here.

© Fraunhofer FFB
Für die Batterieproduktion in Deutschland werden Rohstoffe aus weit entfernten Weltregionen bezogen.

Why is battery recycling important for European battery production?

Europe is working to build a sustainable local supply chain in which the recycling of battery materials will play a key role. Recycling and the reuse of recovered materials in a new life cycle are essential for the development of an independent European battery market. 

Raw materials used in batteries are often scarce in the earth's crust, particularly in Germany and the EU as a whole, leading to a high level of dependence on other countries. Moreover, the extraction of these materials, both in mining and refining, causes long-term damage to the environment. Transportation of these materials also contributes to their carbon footprint. In addition to the environmental concerns, the increasing demand for batteries has led to a surge in demand for raw materials. Therefore, recycling is of utmost importance to ensure a sustainable supply of these resources.

Recycling is becoming increasingly important for the long-term resource-saving and environmentally friendly production of lithium-ion batteries and their alternatives in Europe. Forecasts indicate a more than doubling of recycling capacities for battery cells from 60 GWheq per year to 150 GWheq per year by 2030, while production capacities will increase almost twenty-fold. The new EU Battery Regulation aims to develop a successful recycling program for lithium-ion batteries by setting sustainability requirements, such as a percentage recycling efficiency of materials used. By 2030, 70% of these materials must be recyclable, making it a key factor in achieving sustainability goals.

How can a battery cell be recycled?

The term "Re-X" refers to the process routes used to dispose of battery cells at the end of their life cycle by feeding them into a sub-loop. There are several recycling methods available for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) in the market. These methods involve different steps such as deactivation, disassembly, mechanical treatment, pyrolysis, pyrometallurgy, and hydrometallurgy. This enables various process routes that can recover different raw materials. However, there are still many challenges to be addressed in the recycling process to achieve high recovery rates and material qualities.

One potential source of recycling that exists currently is scrap. This scrap is generated during the production of battery cells and is the largest material available for recycling. Therefore, it can be considered a relevant source of material. Research into new cell materials is focusing on two primary goals: reducing battery costs and shifting towards raw materials that are more abundant or secondarily sourced.

© Fraunhofer FFB
Batterierecycling ist der Schlüssel zum Aufbau einer lokalen und nachhaltigen Kreislaufwirtschaft.


[1] The materials of the battery components, which are decisive for their performance figures, account for a large part of the costs. In view of the increasing demand, it is therefore important in the long term to research alternative technologies that use other materials (e.g. cobalt-free cathodes or sodium-based cell chemistries) and recycling options. The seventh blog article of our information campaign "Skill and Scale-up" explains the basics of battery (raw) materials and recycling. Source: 

[2] Every three years, the EU publishes a list of critical raw materials that serves as an information base for industry and development. It lists raw materials that are necessary for modern technology and for the development of renewable energy sources and storage facilities. This is intended to help strengthen Europe's competitiveness and promote recycling along the supply and value chains.

Sustainability and Cell Innovation at Fraunhofer FFB


press release / 25.4.2023

Fraunhofer FFB and tesa SE sign »Memorandum of Understanding«

Münster. The Fraunhofer Research Institution for Battery Cell Production FFB and tesa SE, international manufacturer of adhesive tapes and self-adhesive product solutions, are collaborating closely in the future. The aim is to develop durable and sustainable battery cells for a wide range of industries.

Core competence

sustainability and material cycle

Core competence

Battery Cell Innovation and Prototyping



Cell designs by Fraunhofer FFB

The cell design significantly determines the properties of the battery. To be able to research and optimize all important variables, Fraunhofer FFB and its FoFeBat project partners have developed eleven cell designs that will be produced in the "FFB PreFab" and "FFB Fab" in the future.