Swedish Scientists Find Promising Way to Recover Minerals from Discarded EV Batteries

October 26, 2023 14:46:27

Electric vehicle battery metals are poised to see a major increase in demand over the next couple of decades, thanks to soaring EV adoption. Minerals such as lithium, graphite and cobalt are critical to the development of EV batteries, but their production is almost completely reliant on Chinese companies, something that has left Western pundits and lawmakers extremely worried. Furthermore, the lack of efficient battery recycling techniques makes it incredibly difficult to reuse EV battery minerals and places even more pressure on the world’s already strained supply.

According to a team of Swedish researchers, they may have developed a technique that could allow the auto industry to recycle old electric vehicle batteries and recover important battery minerals more efficiently. Lead researcher Martina Petranokova says the process will allow for the recovery of valuable metals from old EV batteries and could be used industry-wide once it is scaled up.

EV recycling currently involves a process called hydrometallurgy, where metals from the EV battery cell are dissolved in an inorganic acid and separated from impurities such as copper and aluminum. The metals often go through multiple purification steps, which results in the loss of more lithium and recovers minimal levels of aluminum and copper.

The Chalmers University of Technology researchers say they have developed a technique capable of recovering 98% of lithium and 199% of aluminum from spent electric vehicle batteries. Unlike traditional hydrometallurgy, this novel technique involves retrieving the majority of lithium and aluminum first while minimizing the loss of critical battery raw materials such as manganese, cobalt, and nickel.

Léa Rouquette, a Chalmers Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering PhD student, explains that researchers struggled to find the best conditions for removing 100% of aluminum while separating as much lithium as possible from EV battery cells. She said that finding a way to remove lithium without affecting the amount of critical battery metals that are recovered is crucial because all electric vehicle batteries contain aluminum.

The novel technique involves dissolving pulverized EV battery cells in an ecofriendly solvent called oxalic acid before placing the mixture in a mixer-like machine to separate the metal. Rouquette says separating EV battery metals using the new technique won’t be very difficult  and that it opens the door to new battery recycling techniques in the future.

Enhanced battery recycling procedures could allow the auto industry to fortify battery metal supplies while limiting the environmental impact of past-life electric vehicle batteries.

While these new recycling technologies go through the development process, mining companies such as Reflex Advanced Materials Corp. (CSE: RFLX) (OTCQB: RFLXF) are working to create reliable supplies of the needed battery metals, including graphite, in North America so that the electrification push can proceed unabated.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Reflex Advanced Materials Corp. (CSE: RFLX) (OTCQB: RFLXF) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/RFLXF

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