How to recycle lithium batteries and reclaim battery metals

New way to extract lithium and cobalt that make up the bulk of metal components of these batteries.


Rechargeable lithium ion batteries power our phones and tablets they drive us from A to B in electric vehicles, and have many applications besides. Unfortunately, the devices that they power can fail and the batteries themselves are commonly only usable for two to three years. As such, there are millions batteries that must be recycled.

Research published in the International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy describes a new way to extract the lithium and the cobalt that make up the bulk of the metal components of these batteries.

According to Ataur Rahman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, at the International Islamic University Malaysia and colleague in the Department of Economics, Rafia Afroz, explain that the price of both lithium and cobalt is rising as demand for lithium ion batteries which require both metals for their construction are increasingly in demand.

They have investigated a recycling technology that can extract with reasonable efficiency the metals from scrap batteries.

The team’s hydrometallurgical method can recover both cobalt and lithium in their laboratory-scale tests from standard 48.8 Wh lithium batteries. This involves first baking the battery in an oven at 700 Celsius to “calcinate” the cobalt, lithium and copper components to destroy organic compounds, such as plastics and foams.

The calcined material carrying metal and metal compounds (salts and oxides) is then treated with strong acid, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid, to leach out the metal ions. The team experimented with using hydrogen peroxide as a reducing agent to see whether that reagent would improve the leaching process. They were able to extract the lithium with almost 50 percent efficiency and the cobalt with almost 25 percent efficiency.

Given that each of these metals represent 41% of the weight of a 48.8 Wh battery and 8.5% of the weight, these are useful extraction rates that would on balance, given the heating and acid use, represent a commercially viable approach to recycling the electrodes from such batteries. The leached metals could then be used in the manufacture of new batteries or elsewhere in industry. The contaminated liquid waste could be further treated to make it safe for disposal under recycling regulations.

Reference(s):
1. Publication: Rahman, A. and Afroz, R. Lithium battery recycling management and policy. Int. J. Energy Technology and Policy, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.278-291
2. Research story: Inderscience Publishers | February 07, 2017 (source)

Leave a Reply

What to Read Next:

How bubbles form, could lead to smaller lithium-air batteries

With about three times the energy capacity by weight of today's lithium-ion batteries, lithium-air batteries could one day enable electric...

Solar cell design with over 50% energy-conversion efficiency

Solar cells convert the sun’s energy into electricity by converting photons into electrons. A new solar cell design could raise...

Researchers have developed a breakthrough alternative to fire-prone lithium-ion batteries

Joseph Parker, Jeffrey Long, and Debra Rolison from NRL's Advanced Electrochemical Materials group are leading an effort to create an...

Thin Layers of Water Hold Promise for the Energy Storage of the Future

Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that a material which incorporates atomically thin layers of water is able...

Australian solar industry sets new record

The Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI), with data from the Clean Energy Regulator, says the country has a new solar energy...