A new way to recycle lithium ion batteries

New research published in the International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy has discovered a new way to extract the metal from scrap lithium ion 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, the price of both lithium and cobalt is rising as demand increases for lithium ion batteries which need both metals to be assembled.

The researchers recovered both cobalt and lithium in their tests in the laboratory using standard 48.8 Wh lithium batteries.

The process involved baking the battery in an oven at 700 Celsius to “calcinate” the cobalt, lithium and copper components destroying organic compounds, including plastics and foams.

The material, which carries metal and metal compounds, is then treated with strong acid, hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid, leaching out the metal ions.

Using hydrogen peroxide as a reducing agent allowed the team to extract the lithium with almost 50 per cent efficiency and the cobalt with almost 25 per cent.

The researchers argued the extraction rates represented a commercially viable approach to recycling the electrodes from the batteries, which could then be used in the manufacture of new batteries or elsewhere in the industry.

Contaminated liquid waste could then be treated, making it safe for disposal under recycling regulations.