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Solvometallurgy for battery-grade refining of lithium

Objective

To allow the rollout of e-mobility and stationary renewable energy storage in Europe, a secure, affordable and sustainable supply of battery-grade lithium salts for Li-ion batteries (LIBs) is key. However, Europe’s lithium supply chain is extremely vulnerable: Europe’s primary lithium resources (present as “hard rock”) are underexploited and, even if lithium would be mined domestically, there is no lithium refining capacity available in Europe to process the lithium into battery-grade lithium salts, i.e. Li2CO3 and LiOH (with the latter being vital for the emerging Li-ion NMC battery chemistries with lower Co and enriched Ni content). Concurrently, the state of the art Li2CO3 refining methods (cf. China, Latin America…) come with a large eco-footprint, while the conventional conversion of Li2CO3 to the coveted LiOH generates vast volumes of waste and introduces new impurities.
Based on an innovation developed in the PI’s ERC Advanced Grant SOLCRIMET, SOLVOLi aims to develop the Proof of Concept for a disruptive, solvometallurgical flowsheet for the production, via LiCl, of LiOH. As this flowsheet allows to bypass the Li2CO3 step, SOLVOLi lowers the overall water, energy, CO2 and reagent footprint of LiOH production. Apart from validating and pre-demonstrating the novel flowsheet, SOLVOLi comprises a thorough IPR and upscaling strategy, in close collaboration with EU-based companies. SOLVOLi takes advantage of the fact that most of their decisions on lithium refining investments in Europe still need to be made, opening the door for the commercialisation of the new SOLVOLi process.
Application of this flowsheet contributes to building up the urgently needed lithium refining capacity in Europe for both domestic lithium (hard rocks & slags from pyrometallurgical LIB recycling) and imported lithium resources. As such, SOLVOLi facilitates the EC's strategic battery value chain ambitions (COM(2019)176)) and supports A New Industrial Strategy for Europe (COM(2020)102).

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/chemical sciences/inorganic chemistry/inorganic compounds

Call for proposal

ERC-2020-PoC
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-POC-LS - ERC Proof of Concept Lump Sum Pilot

Host institution

KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT LEUVEN
Address
Oude Markt 13
3000 Leuven
Belgium
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 150 000

Beneficiaries (1)

KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT LEUVEN
Belgium
EU contribution
€ 150 000
Address
Oude Markt 13
3000 Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments