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New study delivers 98% lithium recovery in electric car battery recycling ... its environmentally friendly too!

Published 19/10/2023, 01:17 pm
© Reuters.  New study delivers 98% lithium recovery in electric car battery recycling ... its environmentally friendly too!

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have developed a pioneering method to recycle metals from electric vehicle batteries, boasting 100% recovery of aluminium and 98% of lithium.

The technique is not only highly efficient but also environmentally friendly, utilising oxalic acid, an organic compound commonly found in plants.

Furthermore, the loss of valuable raw materials like nickel, cobalt and manganese is significantly reduced during the process as well.

Exceptional efficiency

According to Léa Rouquette, a PhD student at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, the newly developed method is exceptional in its efficiency.

"So far, no one has managed to find exactly the right conditions for separating this much lithium using oxalic acid, whilst also removing all the aluminium," she said.

The research team's approach departs from traditional hydrometallurgy, a water-based recycling method typically used to extract metals.

Previous methods

In traditional methods, metals are dissolved in an inorganic acid, following which impurities such as aluminium and copper are removed.

This is succeeded by the separate recovery of valuable metals like cobalt, nickel, manganese, and lithium.

Unfortunately, this conventional approach entails several purification steps that can result in the loss of lithium.

Minimise loss

By reversing the order of recovery and focusing initially on lithium and aluminium, the Chalmers researchers have managed to minimise the loss of valuable raw materials.

"This is an innovative method that can offer the recycling industry new alternatives and help solve problems that hinder development," said Martina Petranikova, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers.

The researchers are optimistic that the method could have industrial applications in the coming years.

"As the method can be scaled up, we hope it can be used in industry in future years," added Petranikova.

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