Researchers Extract Valuable Metals from Spent Lithium-Ion Batteries

A horizontally rotating reactor can process complex metal mixtures in a single vessel


A research group at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), South Korea, has developed a method to recycle valuable metals from lithium-ion batteries using their spinning ‘concentric liquid reactors’.

The horizontally rotating reactor can process complex metal mixtures in a single rotating vessel.

Lithium-ion batteries are becoming more popular as a source of energy storage, but they also create a new problem – an increase in lithium battery waste.

These batteries lose capacity over time, and their disposal can cause environmental and safety concerns, and recycling them could be costly and time-consuming.

Researchers have been trying to find a simpler solution to recycle valuable metals such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt from spent lithium-ion batteries.

The team at IBS said that, unlike other recycling methods, their reactor could be vigorously stirred and emulsified without the coalescence of aqueous layers.

The arrangement is maintained by placing liquids in a rotating vessel to form concentric layers stable enough to allow efficient interfacial mixing but without merging the aqueous layers.

The process can separate valuable metals in a matter of minutes, using a low concentration of extracting agents and high selectivity.

The study demonstrates that concentric liquid reactors can rapidly separate valuable metals from highly concentrated mixtures using much lower concentrations of extractants than existing methods.

The technology is also forward-looking as it can be tuneable to different “feed” metal compositions and metals other than those used in batteries.

The researchers claim that the development of this technology has promising implications for the recycling of lithium-ion batteries and the recovery of valuable metals. It offers a simpler, more efficient, and potentially cheaper solution to recycle lithium batteries, which can positively impact the environment.

This new technology can also be applied to the separation of other valuable metals.

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University Singapore recently partnered with Se-cure Waste Management, a Singapore-based battery recycling and processing firm, to recycle spent lithium-ion batteries using biomass.

Also, researchers from Helmholtz Institute Ulm and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology devised a low-cost and eco-friendly lithium recycling technique to recover up to 70% of lithium from battery waste without the use of harsh chemicals, high temperatures, or pre-sorting of materials.