The Australian company Neometals Limited, together with the German SMS Group, want to lead the growing battery recycling market, a market that remains to be explored and that is becoming more and more important as sales of electric vehicles increase.
Together they have developed Primobius, to develop and market a efficient and environmentally friendly recycling solution for lithium-ion batteries that reach the end of their useful life, in their new plant in Germany.
Recover materials for reuse
Primobius will generate salable low and high value products for reuse in new applications, As, by separating the key materials in the batteries, the plant recovers cobalt, lithium, nickel and other materials that would otherwise end up being recycled inefficiently or potentially finding their way to landfill.
The recycling process to be carried out at the Pimobius plant consists of two stages:
- Shredding and sorting. Physical separation of components to remove metal housings, electrode foils, and plastics
- Refining. Leaching, purification and precipitation to deliver predominantly refined chemicals through the hydrometallurgical processing facility.
Battery recycling technology is already has tested in a pilot test at SGS Lakefield, Canada. The pilot test achieved a total mass recovery of new food products equivalent to approximately 85%.
Additionally, the nickel and cobalt sulfate solids were produced to suitable specifications for use in cathode production. Primobius aims to use the knowledge gained at the demonstration plant to optimize recycling technology and be able to recover up to 95% of the battery mass.
Testing of this recycling process began in October and will end in November. Thereafter, the demonstration plant will be modified and sections moved to meet the requirements of the crushing plant, which will offer commercial recycling of lithium-ion batteries starting in the first quarter of 2022.
The recycling process
In a first step, the plant shreds spent batteries and classifies components made of plastic and metal of the so-called “black mass”. The two-stage crushing process is followed by drying and separating the coarse metal and plastic materials from the feed for processing in the hydrometallurgical section of the plant.
The black mass product of the first stage contains the active materials for the operation of the batteries. During the following hydrometallurgical processes, it is possible extract lithium, nickel and cobalt from these active materials in a form suitable for your reuse in the manufacture of battery cathode materials.
In the second phase, it is processed in the dissolution circuit to extract cobalt, nickel, manganese, copper and lithium. The pregnant leach solution is separated from the solid leach residue. Further purification results in the recovery of cobalt and nickel as high purity sulfates suitable for potential sale directly into the lithium ion battery supply chain.