ERAMET contribution to the RELIEVE PROJECT
The strong growth in the electric vehicle market, based on lithium-ion battery technology, will be a major element towards the shift to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility. Eramet, as a major player in metal extraction and recycling wishes to become a key supplier in metals for the energy transition. In this context Eramet is developing an innovative recycling process to recover the valuable elements from spent Li-Ion batteries.
In the ReLieVe Project, Eramet is working on the development of a process specifically designed to treat End-of-Life electric vehicle Li-Ion batteries and scraps from Gigafoactories. The focus of the process is to achieve the best recovery of lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt and valorize most of the other components of a lithium-ion cell such as plastics and casing.
The process can be divided in two distinct parts : an upstream part where a succession of physical operation are used to transform Li-Ion batteries into a metal concentrate called blackmass and a downstream part where a succession of chemical operations are used to transform this blackmass into battery grade products.
The upstream process starts with the discharge of batteries which are then dismantled and crushed. Once reduced to fine particles, all materials are sorted using techniques such as magnetic separation air classification, etc. The key step of the upstream process is the thermal treatment of the blackmass that ensures the production of a very high grade blackmass where nickel, cobalt, manganese and lithium are concentrated.
From shredded dry cells to blackmass
Then the downstream steps allow for the processing of this blackmass and turn it into high purity products. This is firstly done by extracting all valuable elements by acidic dissolution. After this step, begins the work to reclaim only the lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese. This is done by purification steps that are each dedicated to the removal of specific elements that are considered impurities.
In the end it will be possible to produce battery grade products of lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese that could be used again in the manufacturing of new lithium-ion batteries.
In 2020 the development of this recycling process has been carried out at pilot scale on several hundred kilograms of batteries to obtain results representative of an industrial scale. It is a constant focus of Eramet within the development of this project to reach the most detailed understanding of the technical and economical aspect of this recycling process.