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Unleashing the Power of Micro-XRF in the Battery Industry

Lithium-ion batteries are a cornerstone of the electric vehicle (EV) industry, with huge growth in their use , by 2030 the entire lithium-ion battery chain from mining through to recycling is forecast to exceed $400 billion. Applications such as grid storage for wind and solar power are also helping drive this demand, in addition to EVs.

However, the future of lithium-ion batteries has some remaining challenges. Concerns for supply and end-of-life battery wastage has driven the identified requirement for “black mass” recycling – the product of shredded battery materials.

The Bruker M4 TORNADO is a non-destructive, high-resolution Micro X-ray Fluorescence instrument that can produce detailed elemental maps of many sample types. See our previous article describing the various components of a TESLA battery.

Figure 1: Internal structure of an NCA battery with combined element maps showing the Ni-Co cathode (yellow), anode current collector (blue) Battery supplied by Talga Group.

Cobalt, lithium, manganese, nickel, and copper are all valuable components in terms of battery production. After reaching end of life, batteries are collected, dismantled, and then shredded into smaller pieces. The composition of the “black mass” determines the metallurgical processes required to separate the residue materials through various leaching processes. Using micro-XRF spectral scientists can non-destructively analyse the geochemical fingerprint of the “black mass” pre-extraction as a way of maximising metal recovery.

A study by Donnelly et al (2023) published in the “Recycling” analysed two samples of black mass from a European source using multiple methods. Micro-XRF mapped copper, nickel, manganese, and cobalt-bearing phases, and further detailed phase characterization informed evaluation of potential hydrometallurgical or pyrometallurgical recycling routes. This study demonstrates the significant and versatile role of Micro-XRF and its suitability for the application of the analysis and recycling of end-of-life batteries.


In conclusion, micro-XRF analysis can serve to address important questions as the analytical community seeks to unravel the mysteries of black mass, enabling resource recovery, environmental protection, and technological progress. Its integration into battery recycling workflows promises a greener and more efficient future for energy storage systems.

Donnelly L, Pirrie D, Power M, Corfe I, Kuva J, Lukkari S, Lahaye Y, Liu X, Dehaine Q, Jolis EM, et al. The Recycling of End-of-Life Lithium-Ion Batteries and the Phase Characterisation of Black Mass. Recycling. 2023; 8(4):59. https://doi.org/10.3390/recycling8040059

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