The Texas-based materials science company Momentum Technologies focuses on extracting critical metals from electronic waste, and has licensed an Oak Ridge National Laboratory process for recovering cobalt and other metals from used lithium-ion batteries.
The company’s ‘Membrane Solvent Extraction process’ (MSX) recovers 99.9% pure lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese oxides or sulfates depending on the battery components and construction.
Research started with the problem that only around 5% of batteries used in the USA are recycled. And those which are, generally encounter issues with raw resource material extraction: “After removing recyclable plastics and metals from end-of-life batteries, a sludgy mix of mostly lithium-ion battery elements known as ‘black mass’ is left,” explains the report.
“Half of the costs in lithium-ion battery recycling are in the logistics of shipping that material to processors,” said Preston Bryant, founder and CEO of Momentum. The company says that the MSX breakthrough battery recyclers to build processing plants at the sources of the waste, eliminating logistics hurdles while increasing material recovery rates compared to traditional smelters.
There is urgent need for these resources in the USA, as the technology is being developed and accepted, but “There is little to no mining, downstream refining or recycling in the U.S. for these elements and the traditional technology is quite complex and generates a lot of waste,” according to Ramesh Bhave, ORNL senior researcher and project leader. “Our technology contributes to a circular economy. We completely recycle end-of-life products without generating hazardous waste.”
Funding for the project came from a variety of sources, including the US Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, which is a part of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, funded the initial research through the Critical Materials Institute. The DOE’s Technology Commercialization Fund and by Momentum Technologies provided further economic support through a Strategic Partnership Project agreement.