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A host of innovative methods are emerging to recycle batteries, offering new hope for environmental sustainability. Organic compounds, selective membranes, and orange peel are all options on the table. Specifically, recycling lithium is crucial for Europe. Europe almost completely relies on imports for its lithium supply, yet these game-changing methods could revolutionise the recycling of batteries, contributing greatly to our sustainable future.

  • New methods emerge for recycling batteries, offering sustainability hope.
  • Researchers in Sweden pioneer new hydrometallurgy technique to recycle metals from expired EV batteries.
  • Italian startup Arabat utilizes organic waste acid to extract battery metals like nickel and lithium.

A new recipe for battery recycling

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have developed a new method to recycle metals from expired electric vehicle (EV) batteries. This method, based on hydrometallurgy – using aqueous solutions to extract metals – employs an innovative approach by reversing the traditional order of the recycling process. Rather than removing impurities such as aluminum and copper first, the researchers recovered the valuable lithium and aluminum from the batteries initially.

The latter part of the process, involving a filtration step, is compared to brewing coffee. While the aluminum and lithium dissolve into the liquid, the other metals remain as solids. The next step is separating the aluminum and lithium, a feat made easier by the contrasting properties of the metals.

Arabat: bio-innovation in battery recycling

Italian start-up Arabat is bringing a unique approach to battery recycling by using organic and citrus waste. The company’s process utilizes organic waste acid to extract essential metals like nickel, cobalt, and lithium carbonate from batteries.

The process involves shredding the batteries to produce a black mass, which then undergoes a green leaching process. After this, selective precipitation filters the output to recover materials like nickel, manganese, cobalt, lithium carbonate, and graphite. This innovative approach could revolutionize the battery recycling sector.

Evonik: simplifying lithium recycling with ceramics

German company Evonik has developed a membrane that selectively collects lithium ions from spent batteries. The permselective ceramic membrane used in this process allows lithium ions to move through its crystal structure, simplifying the recycling process.

Known as membrane electrolysis, this solution uses electricity to separate lithium ions, producing battery-grade lithium hydroxide in a single step. This development could contribute to more sustainable battery production, especially considering the increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries for electric mobility.

Altilium Metals: scaling up recycling operations

Altilium Metals, a company based in Devon, UK, has also been innovating in the battery recycling sector. The firm has developed a recycling technology with over 95 percent efficiency in recycling crucial battery metals. Altilium Metals plans to ramp up its operations, aiming to recycle 24,000 batteries annually.

The company’s technology aligns with the UK government’s Critical Minerals Strategy and contributes to the transition to a circular economy. By recycling the metals from spent EV batteries, Altilium Metals reduces the need for mining virgin materials, consequently mitigating environmental and social costs.

Europe’s Largest Recycling Facility

Fortum Battery Recycling has launched Europe’s largest closed-loop hydrometallurgical battery recycling facility in Harjavalta, Finland. The facility aims to reduce dependence on imported critical battery raw materials by recovering 95 percent of valuable and critical metals from batteries and returning them to the production cycle for new lithium-ion battery chemicals.

As the demand for batteries and raw materials increases with the growth of e-mobility, recycling becomes increasingly crucial for decarbonization. Fortum Battery Recycling, with its advanced facilities and plans for further expansion, aims to significantly impact the future of battery recycling and sustainable materials production in Europe.