03/10/2019 - 13:57

Lithium Australia closes loop for battery recycling

03/10/2019 - 13:57


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Lithium Australia has achieved its goal of generating a high-quality cathode material suitable for producing lithium-ion batteries, by recycling spent batteries. The company says the cathodes were used to create coin cell batteries with an electrochemical performance that exceeded its expectations. The company is seeking to “close the loop” on the energy-metal cycle, by producing materials suitable for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries from the components of old recycled batteries.

Lithium Australia closes loop for battery recycling
VSPC Ltd’s research and development facility located in Brisbane, Queensland.

Lithium Australia’s wholly-owned subsidiary, VSPC Ltd, has achieved its goal of producing a high-quality battery cathode material using refined lithium phosphate that was harvested from spent, recycled lithium-ion batteries.

The company said the cathode material exceeded VSPC’s standards for electrochemical performance and confirmed that the lithium phosphate salts produced from the processing of recycled batteries, appears to be an ideal feed source for VSPC’s technology.

The work further propels Lithium Australia towards its goal of “closing the loop” on the energy-metal cycle by producing materials suitable for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries from the components of old recycled batteries.

The cathodic materials produced were used to create and successfully test lithium-ferro-phosphate batteries, which are a common type of lithium-ion battery.

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

"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."

Whilst quite a technical process, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, or “ANSTO”, uses the company’s existing technology to recover lithium phosphate with very high purity from a mixed metal dust, generated from recycled lithium-ion batteries.

That dust is initially recovered by Melbourne-based Envirostream Australia, by sorting, shredding, separating and recovering energy metals, including lithium, from spent lithium-ion batteries.

After ANSTO recovered the lithium phosphate product, it was delivered to VSPC’s pilot plant in Brisbane, where that company’s proprietary nanotechnology was used to synthesise the cathode materials.

Using the lithium-ferro-phosphate salts, VSPC then created new coin-cell lithium-ion batteries and when electrochemically tested, returned positive results above the specifications it was seeking.

The company said that it is currently in discussions with industry players in China and elsewhere to establish a supply chain for the cathode materials produced from the recycling of spent lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium Australia said that market projections for such materials are growing, given its suitability for applications such as the replacement of automotive lead-acid batteries and large-scale energy storage solutions, including the provision of back-up power supplies for 5G communications stations.


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