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Lithium Australia produces high-quality cathode material from spent batteries

Subsidiary VSPC has demonstrated the technological fit between LIT’s spent battery recycling and the process for producing material for LFP batteries.

Lithium Australia NL - Lithium Australia produces high-quality anode material from spent batteries
Lithium phosphate test work at the VSPC plant in Brisbane

Lithium Australia NL’s (ASX:LIT) subsidiary VSPC Ltd has demonstrated the technological fit between the company’s recycling process and the VSPC process for producing cathode material for LFP batteries.

VSPC, a wholly-owned LIT subsidiary, has produced high-quality cathode material using refined lithium phosphate derived from spent lithium-ion batteries.

Ideal feed material

The cathode material produced exceeded VSPC standards for electrochemical performance.

This confirms that lithium phosphate produced by LIT’s processing of recycled battery material is an ideal feed for VSPC technology.

LIT managing director Adrian Griffin said, “The production of LIBs from recycled battery material represents a genuinely renewable pathway for the battery industry.

“Recycling of this type meets the ethical, social and governance standards that the community expects.

“Improving resource sustainability”

“It also strengthens our capacity to deal with climate change by improving resource sustainability and reducing the environmental footprint of portable power.”

In early September, VSPC used lithium phosphate (LP) from spent lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) to create high-quality cathode material.

This was then used to create and test lithium-ferro-phosphate (LFP) batteries, which are a type of LIB.

Using LIT’s technology, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) recovered LP with a purity of more than 99.9% from mixed metal dust (MMD) from recycled LIBs.

The MMD was commercially recovered by Melbourne-based Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd, in which the company holds 18% equity.

Envirostream is the only company in Australia capable of sorting, shredding and separating all energy metals, including lithium, from spent LIBs.

Once ANSTO had recovered the LP, it was shipped to VSPC’s pilot plant in Brisbane, Australia.

Nanotechnology used

There, VSPC proprietary nanotechnology was used to synthesise LFP cathode material from the LP, with 100% recovery to final product achieved with precise control of composition and phase purity.

Using that LFP cathode material, VSPC created new, 2032 coin-cell LIBs and electrochemically tested them.

The performance of those LIBs exceeded VSPC’s internal standards:

  • Specific capacity 0.1C discharge >155 mAh/g; and
  • Specific capacity 1C discharge >135mAh/g.

Typical discharge curves for the coin-cell LIBs.

The entire production cycle - lithium from recycled batteries to LP to LFP cathode material and to new LIBs - demonstrates the potential for improved efficiency and reduced manufacturing cost.

Commercial tests

VSPC will now use a blend of newly created LFP material and LFP material synthesised from recycled lithium to make and test cathodes for larger, commercial-format (18650) battery cells.

The company is in discussions with industry players in China and elsewhere to establish a supply chain for LFP cathode material produced from the recycling of spent LIBs.

Growth projections for such material are strong, given its suitability for applications such as the replacement of automotive lead-acid batteries and for large-scale energy storage, including the provision of back-up power supplies for 5G communications stations.

Griffin added, “With demand for LIBs remaining strong, Lithium Australia is providing a supply chain solution that is independent of mainstream mineral producers, as well as producers of conventional battery chemicals.”

Quick facts: Lithium Australia NL

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Market: ASX
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