In the USA, Nevada-based Aqua Metals says it is reinventing metals recycling with its AquaRefining technology. The company has plated high purity cobalt and produced manganese dioxide from lithium-ion battery black mass.
With the production of these two materials, the company has successfully recovered all the high-value metals from used lithium-ion batteries, including lithium hydroxide, copper, and nickel, proving at bench scale its metals recycling process. Based on the successful results to date, the company has initiated the deployment of a lithium-ion recycling pilot at its Innovation Center in Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center that will begin operations later this year.
“We have proven at bench scale that we can extract high-quality metals with what we believe is the lowest environmental footprint of any lithium-ion battery recycling technology under development,” said David Regan, VP of Commercial at Aqua Metals. “Any company looking to partner with a battery metals recycling leader will appreciate that our fundamentally non-polluting Li AquaRefining process is expected to recover all the high value materials in lithium-ion batteries sustainably and more cost effectively than other recycling methods and mining.”
The company points out the importance of battery recycling as the market for electric vehicles grows. As uptake of electric vehicles increases, so does the number of spent batteries. Aqua Metals points out: “Cobalt is one of the most expensive materials found in many lithium-ion batteries, and IDTechEx estimates that there will be cobalt shortages as well as supply challenges for lithium and possibly other materials in the next few years.” Other issues include future materials shortages which could increase the cost of these metals.
Building up a country’s battery and electric vehicle supply is one thing, but without recycling inside that country, battery materials must be continually imported at greater expense.
Not news to China, where the uptake of electric vehicles preceeds that of Europe and the USA, and the EV battery recycling economy is already expanding to scale. Recently the Chinese government updated legislation for recycling standards, and identified the need to encourage the further development and expansion of reuse and recycling business models, as well as the need for improved battery recycling technology.
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