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Where will we get so much lithium for the energy transition? Recycling will be one of the keys

It is a classic in the arguments of the most skeptical who indicate that there will not be enough materials to replace combustion engine vehicles with electric ones. Components such as lithium do not seem to cover the demand. But the reality is that, in addition to the fact that the more you search, the more lithium you find, now we add the potential of recover it from current batteries through recycling processes.

This week the American company Electra Battery Materials Corporation confirmed the success of its lithium recovery process carried out at its refinery north of Toronto, Canada.

Those responsible for Electra have indicated that the recovery and subsequent production of a product of technical grade lithium carbonate in an industrial environment, which allows you to validate your process hydrometallurgical patented and paves the way for the commissioning of a large processing facility.

According to Trent Mell, CEO of Electra Battery Materials: “The recovery of lithium from the black mass represents a potential game changer for Electra and the electric vehicle supply chain. Recycling lithium from batteries already withdrawn from the market through hydrometallurgy reduces the carbon footprint of electric car manufacturing and represents an important source of future supply for a product whose demand is expected to grow significantly in the coming years..”

Black mass is the industry term used to describe the material that remains after expired lithium-ion batteries are shredded and all casings are removed. This material contains high-value items, including lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper and graphitewhich once recovered, can be recycled to produce new lithium batteries.

Until now, developers have focused on collecting and shredding batteries with the resulting black mass material treated primarily in a pyrometallurgical casting process which has a greater impact on emissions, and also lower metal recovery rates than hydrometallurgical processes.

Currently, Electra has a black mass demonstration plant open at the end of December 2022, which has processed materials delivered by the automotive industry and where lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper and graphite have been successfully extracted. .

Battery recycling is a fundamental pillar both to reduce the emissions footprint of battery electric vehicles, but it is also key to meeting the ambitious growth targets in the production of electric models where recycling may be one of the keys not only to access critical components, but also a strategic lever to reduce dependence on materials in the hands of a group of countries that may use them to speculate and increase their cost.

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