Efficient approach to leaching lithium and cobalt from recycled batteries

February 7, 2017, Inderscience Publishers

Rechargeable lithium ion batteries power our phones and tablets they drive us from A to B in electric vehicles, and have many applications besides. Unfortunately, the devices that they power can fail and the batteries themselves are commonly only usable for two to three years. As such, there are millions batteries that must be recycled. Research published in the International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy describes a new way to extract the lithium and the cobalt that make up the bulk of the metal components of these batteries.

According to Ataur Rahman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, at the International Islamic University Malaysia and colleague in the Department of Economics, Rafia Afroz, explain that the price of both and is rising as demand for lithium ion batteries which require both metals for their construction are increasingly in demand. They have investigated a recycling technology that can extract with reasonable efficiency the metals from scrap batteries.

The team's hydrometallurgical method can recover both cobalt and lithium in their laboratory-scale tests from standard 48.8 Wh lithium batteries. This involves first baking the in an oven at 700 Celsius to "calcinate" the cobalt, lithium and copper components to destroy organic compounds, such as plastics and foams. The calcined material carrying metal and metal compounds (salts and oxides) is then treated with strong acid, and , to leach out the metal ions. The team experimented with using hydrogen peroxide as a reducing agent to see whether that reagent would improve the leaching process. They were able to extract the lithium with almost 50 percent efficiency and the cobalt with almost 25 percent efficiency.

Given that each of these metals represent 41% of the weight of a 48.8 Wh battery and 8.5% of the weight, these are useful extraction rates that would on balance, given the heating and acid use, represent a commercially viable approach to recycling the electrodes from such batteries. The leached metals could then be used in the manufacture of new batteries or elsewhere in industry. The contaminated liquid waste could be further treated to make it safe for disposal under recycling regulations.

Explore further: High-purity metals recovered from battery waste

More information: Rahman, A. and Afroz, R. (2017) 'Lithium battery recycling management and policy', Int. J. Energy Technology and Policy, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.278-291.

Related Stories

High-purity metals recovered from battery waste

June 2, 2016

Researchers at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) have succeeded in recovering important metals – lithium, cobalt and nickel – from battery waste with nearly 100 percent purity. Recovered metals will be needed ...

Fungi recycle rechargeable lithium-ion batteries

August 21, 2016

Although rechargeable batteries in smartphones, cars and tablets can be charged again and again, they don't last forever. Old batteries often wind up in landfills or incinerators, potentially harming the environment. And ...

Electric-car battery materials could harm key soil bacteria

February 10, 2016

The growing popularity of battery-powered cars could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they are not entirely Earth friendly. Problems can creep in when these batteries are disposed of. Scientists, in a new study in ...

Recommended for you

Team breaks world record for fast, accurate AI training

November 7, 2018

Researchers at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) have partnered with a team from Tencent Machine Learning to create a new technique for training artificial intelligence (AI) machines faster than ever before while maintaining ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gkam
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 07, 2017
The secondary battery market is already forming, with a Chinese company already selling reconditioned EV batteries for standby power applications.
Lord_jag
not rated yet Feb 08, 2017
I could see a... properly designed facility... that takes in all the lithium batteries make banks that will continue to the batteries until they are depleted.

So here's a unit, you insert 5000 of one specific type of phone batteries and plug them in. Each one provides power to and from a rail on demand, each with their own power controller keeping power use inside acceptable norms. One central device connects these power rails to power rails of units accepting other types of batteries.

This one for iphone 4. That one for old blackberries. This one for cells stripped from laptops and cordless drills.

One one side each battery has it's own dedicated power controller and lets you know when the cell is dead. On the other end of the factory you have a grid scale battery for providing power during the day and using it when it's cheap/free

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.