Closing the battery production loop

Lithium Australia NL

Tuesday, 08 October, 2019

Closing the battery production loop

Lithium Australia subsidiary VSPC has produced high-quality cathode material using refined lithium phosphate (LP) derived from spent lithium-ion batteries. The cathode material was used to create and test lithium-ferro-phosphate (LFP) batteries — a type of lithium-ion battery (LIB).

The achievement demonstrates the technological fit between Lithium Australia’s recycling process and the VSPC process for producing cathode material for LFP batteries. The entire production cycle (lithium from recycled batteries → LP → LFP cathode material → new LIBs) demonstrates the potential for improved efficiency and reduced manufacturing costs.

“The production of LIBs from recycled battery material represents a genuinely renewable pathway for the battery industry,” explained Lithium Australia MD Adrian Griffin.

“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,” he said.

The circular battery production process

  • Using Lithium Australia’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 Envirostream Australia, capable of sorting, shredding and separating all energy metals, including lithium, from spent LIBs.
  • Once ANSTO recovered the LP, it was shipped to VSPC’s pilot plant in Brisbane, where nanotechnology was used to synthesise LFP cathode material from the LP. This was then used to create new, 2032 coin-cell LIBs. In electrochemical tests, performance of the LIBs exceeded VSPC’s internal standards.

VSPC will 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.

Lithium Australia is currently 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 the 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.

Image courtesy of Lithium Australia.

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