Lithium Australia NL (ASX:LIT) has achieved a major milestone in its strategy to close the loop on the energy metal cycle by producing refined lithium phosphate (LP) from spent lithium-ion batteries (LIBs).
The process of producing lithium-ferro-phosphate (LFP) cathode powder from the recycled LP is underway with coin cells to then be produced to test the performance of the re-birthed cathode materials.
Nickel and cobalt also recovered
In a further positive, nickel and cobalt have also been recovered from the spent LIBs as a concentrate suitable as a feed for conventional refining processes.
By recovering battery metals from spent LIBs, the company can provide a sustainable solution to a major recycling challenge that of batteries being consigned to landfill and pave the way for the re-birthing of cathode materials.
“Significant technical achievement”
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said: “Currently, few recycling operations around the world can recover lithium from LIBs.
“LIT’s process has the potential to not only improve the sustainability of LIBs but also ease future supply constraints that may prove problematic to the industry.
“The company’s ability to employ LP in the direct generation of LFP is a significant technical achievement, one that reduces the number of process steps required to manufacture the cathode powder.
“That’s great news because LFP is the perfect battery configuration for energy-storage systems suitable for the harsh Australian environment.”
LIT’s commercial objective is to produce refined LP from spent LIBs and use it directly in the production of new LFP cathode material.
MMD derived largely from electrodes
Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd, which is 14.29% owned by LIT, shreds LIBs and separates the components for reuse in the battery and other industries.
One of the products generated in that process is mixed metal dust (MMD), which is derived largely from the battery electrodes.
Envirostream supplied LIT with MMD for recycling technology studies, to recover lithium in particular, but also cobalt, nickel and copper as most commercial recycling processes do not recover lithium.
Recovery of lithium from the MMD in the form of LP was subsequently refined for use as a precursor in the production of LFP cathode powder.
Proprietary technology used
That was achieved via LIT’s proprietary LP precipitation and refining technology, developed in collaboration with Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).
The refined LP produced at ANSTO is the first batch to originate from recycled battery material and will be converted to LFP at LIT’s VSPC cathode powder pilot plant in Brisbane, Australia.
That LFP will be used to make coin cells for performance testing of the cathode materials.