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Sustainable processing, refining and recycling of raw materials (Batteries Partnership)

In order to secure a competitive battery industry in Europe, innovations in chemical and metallurgical production are required. The focus is at improved yield, better process control, flowsheet flexibility, improved product purity and quality, improved impurity removal, and improved recovery from secondary streams. These innovations are in some cases complementary unit processes to existing process flow sheets, while in others, such as European lithium or precursor production, completely new flowsheets. These advancements are expected to bring the European battery metal and chemical production to a global leadership. The activities are expected to cover one or several bullets:

  • Solutions to a sustainable Lithium value chain, such as:
    • Novel sorting technologies, new comminution method and alternative energy sources to improve energy efficiency, CO2 emissions and reduce water use in lithium processing and refining.
    • Selective methods for lithium extraction from pegmatites and other Lithium bearing minerals and refining of lithium materials to battery grade chemicals or even to lithium metal. Improvement of stability of refined LiOH. Cross-connections to other relevant WP parts which cover raw materials issues (e.g. Cluster 4) will be established.
    • Specification of physical-chemical properties for Lithium deposits, to foresee how the mineral mix could be better processed.
  • New refining processes to increase value and yield from European mines and sustainably sourced and imported (nickel and cobalt) raw materials, but also from process waste, side streams, recycled materials, mine tailings and other non-conventional sources.
  • Improvements in performance and efficiency of existing (nickel and cobalt) refining processes in Europe, e.g. by implementing new methodologies to reduce carbon emissions, increasing energy and resource efficiency, raw material flexibility and substitution of fossil fuels.
    • Development of new recoverable reagents and processes and real-time composition analysis for battery metal leaching and extraction to reduce waste and improve material efficiency and waste management
    • New smelting and slag engineering technologies to address Ni and Co losses in smelting
  • Development of continuous processes for precursor materials (pCAM) to replace the currently used batch processing, including:
    • Process control solutions for different cathode active material recipes
    • Complete process design concepts including filtration, gas supply, mixing ratios, flow control, fluidised process solutions, and process automation
    • Process optimisation to minimise and/or recover off-specification battery metals and compounds.
  • Zero Liquid Discharge processing in battery chemical and precursor material processing, including energy cascading and waste valorisation
  • New business models for co-processing and process integration
  • Process modelling competence combined with environmental impact evaluation (incl. LCA) for individual primary processes, in collaboration with a project funded under HORIZON-CL5-2021-D5-01-04.

This topic implements the co-programmed European Partnership on ‘Towards a competitive European industrial battery value chain for stationary applications and e-mobility’.