A novel technique for reusing electric vehicle batteries has surfaced, with the potential to extract an astounding 98 percent lithium and 100 percent aluminum from the battery cells. A novel hydrometallurgical technique has been developed by Chalmers University of Technology researchers, outperforming traditional techniques in terms of efficacy and efficiency.
Hydrometallurgy, a commonly employed method for obtaining metals from diverse sources, has been modified to effectively recycle aluminum and lithium. The novelty is in the careful control of temperature, concentration, and duration while employing oxalic acid, a naturally occurring, eco-friendly compound present in plants like spinach and rhubarb.
Léa Rouquette, a PhD student at Chalmers, emphasized the challenge of separating such a high percentage of lithium without losing aluminum, a common component in batteries. This new approach, however, overcomes this hurdle by carefully manipulating the conditions during oxalic acid treatment.
Martina Petranikova, an Associate Professor at Chalmers, highlighted the increasing demand for alternatives to traditional inorganic chemicals, particularly in tackling the issue of removing residual materials like aluminum. By recovering lithium and aluminum at the initial stage of the process, this method effectively reduces the waste of precious metals needed for new battery production.
The researchers have reversed the traditional order of hydrometallurgy, filtering the mixture to isolate lithium and aluminum in the liquid phase, while other metals remain in the solid residue. Separating lithium and aluminum from the mixture is straightforward due to their distinct properties.
This pioneering method not only holds great promise for future battery recycling but also contributes to sustainability and resource conservation. Hydrometallurgical techniques are recognized for their energy and environmentally friendly nature, making them ideal for ores and industrial waste products. Moreover, these procedures support the circular economy by recovering valuable metals from low-grade ores and secondary sources, underlining the importance of sustainable practices in the evolving landscape of battery recycling.
The potential scalability of this method offers hope for a future where efficient recycling processes can be integrated into the battery industry, promoting sustainable practices and reducing the strain on natural resources. As further research and development unfold, the innovative hydrometallurgical approach is poised to revolutionize the future of battery recycling.