International news within the industry of mining and metal, Apr, 24 2019
Latest News

Old mining techniques make a new way to recycle lithium batteries

Using 100-year-old minerals processing methods, chemical engineering students have found a solution to a looming 21st-century problem: how to economically recycle lithium-ion batteries. Photo: Credit: Lei Pan, Michigan Tech
Using 100-year-old minerals processing methods, chemical engineering students have found a solution to a looming 21st-century problem: how to economically recycle lithium-ion batteries. Photo: Credit: Lei Pan, Michigan Tech
Published by
Markku Björkman - 06 Dec 2018

Using 100-year-old minerals processing methods, chemical engineering students have found a solution to a looming 21st-century problem: how to economically recycle lithium-ion batteries.

Lei Pan's team of chemical engineering students had worked long and hard on their research project, and they were happy just to be showing their results at the People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) competition last April in Washington, DC. What they didn't expect was to be mobbed by enthusiastic onlookers.

"We got a lot of 'oh wow!' responses, from eight-year-olds wanting to know how it worked to EPA officials wondering why no one had done this before," says senior Zachary Oldenburg. "My response to the EPA was, 'Because no one else had a project leader who's a mining engineer.'"

Pan, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University, earned his graduate degrees in mining engineering.

It was his idea to adapt 20th-century mining technology to recycle lithium-ion batteries, from the small ones in cell phones to the multi-kilowatt models that power electric cars.

Pan figured the same technologies used to separate metal from ore could be applied to spent batteries. So he gave his students a crash course in basic minerals processing methods and set them loose in the lab.

"My mind goes back to the beginning when nothing was working," says Trevyn Payne, a chemical engineering senior. "A lot of times it was, honestly, 'Let's just try this.' Sometimes when things worked out, it was kind of an accident."

Oldenburg provides an example. "We were trying all kinds of solvents to liberate chemicals, and after hours and hours, we found out that plain water worked the best."

But eventually, everything came together. "You can see your results improve experiment by experiment," explains doctoral student Ruiting Zhan. "That's pretty good. It gives you a sense of achievement."

The team used mining industry technologies to separate everything in the battery: the casing, metal foils and coatings for the anode and cathode, which includes lithium metal oxide, the most valuable part. The components can be returned to the manufacturer and re-made into new batteries.

"The biggest advantage of our process is that it's inexpensive and energy efficient." Ruitang Zhan

"For the purpose of remanufacturing, our recycled materials are as good as virgin materials, and they are cheaper," Oldenburg adds.

The fact that their process is tried and true is perhaps its most attractive quality to industry, Pan notes. "We saw the opportunity to use an existing technology to address emerging challenges," he says. "We use standard gravity separations to separate copper from aluminium, and we use froth flotation to recover critical materials, including graphite, lithium and cobalt. These mining technologies are the cheapest available, and the infrastructure to implement them already exists."

Passers-by weren't the only ones at the P3 competition impressed by the students' effort. AIChE's (the American Institute of Chemical Engineers) Youth Council on Sustainable Science and Technology (YCOSST) has announced it will be presenting the team its YCOSST P3 Award, which recognizes the project "that best employs sustainable practices, interdisciplinary collaborations, engineering principles and youth involvement, and whose design is simple enough to have a sustainable impact without requiring significant technical expertise of its users."

The team members, including Oldenburg, Payne, Zhan and undergraduate Lucille Nunneley, will be given the award in October, at the AIChE annual meeting in Pittsburgh, where they will also present their results. The award includes $1,000 to help cover student travel costs.

To advance their research, Pan has received funding from the Michigan Technological University Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) statewide Innovation Hub.

The project was funded by a $15,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and an article on their work, "Recovery of Active Cathode Materials from Lithium-Ion Batteries Using Froth Flotation," authored by Pan, Zhan and Oldenburg, was published online June 15 in Sustainable Materials and Technologies.

The article is provided by Michigan Technological Institute. Originally written by Marcia Goodrich. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

 

The property lies in the famous Cobalt province and is approximately 47 km south of the town of Cobalt. The picture shows an old mine in the town of Cobalt. In the early 1900s, the area was heavily mined for silver; the silver ore also contained cobalt. By 1910, the community was the fourth highest producer of silver in the world. Mining declined significantly by the 1930s, together with the local population. In late 2017 one publication referred to Cobalt as a ghost town, but the high demand for cobalt, used in making batteries for mobile devices and electric vehicles, is leading to great interest in the area among mining companies. Photo: Wikipedia, credit: P199
The property lies in the famous Cobalt province and is approximately 47 km south of the town of Cobalt. The picture shows an old mine in the town of Cobalt. In the early 1900s, the area was heavily mined for silver; the silver ore also contained cobalt. By 1910, the community was the fourth highest producer of silver in the world. Mining declined significantly by the 1930s, together with the local population. In late 2017 one publication referred to Cobalt as a ghost town, but the high demand for cobalt, used in making batteries for mobile devices and electric vehicles, is leading to great interest in the area among mining companies. Photo: Wikipedia, credit: P199

Quantum Cobalt Completes First Pass Exploration Near Temagami, Ontario

Sotkamo Silver consists of the parent company, Sotkamo Silver AB, with one wholly-owned subsidiary in Finland: Sotkamo Silver Oy. Sotkamo Silver develops silver, gold and zinc deposits in the Nordic region. The Company has completed the Definitive Feasibility Study for the Silver Mine project and is working on project financing issues. Photo: Sotkamo Silver
Sotkamo Silver consists of the parent company, Sotkamo Silver AB, with one wholly-owned subsidiary in Finland: Sotkamo Silver Oy. Sotkamo Silver develops silver, gold and zinc deposits in the Nordic region. The Company has completed the Definitive Feasibility Study for the Silver Mine project and is working on project financing issues. Photo: Sotkamo Silver

New silver mine opened in Finland

"150 trucks pro year"

The production of the first silver mine in Finland has started in Sotkamo. the mine of the Sotkamo...

The joint initiative called HYBRIT of SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall – here with their three representatives at the fair, from right, Martin Pei technology manager at SSAB, Jan Moström CEO of LKAB and Martin Lindqvist, CEO of SSAB. HYBRIT is now on exhibit as an exciting sustainability collaboration at one of the worlds largest industrial trade fairs in Hanover. The CEOs of the three companies are in Germany to show the rest of Europe that it is possible to produce fossil free steel. Photo: SSAB
The joint initiative called HYBRIT of SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall – here with their three representatives at the fair, from right, Martin Pei technology manager at SSAB, Jan Moström CEO of LKAB and Martin Lindqvist, CEO of SSAB. HYBRIT is now on exhibit as an exciting sustainability collaboration at one of the worlds largest industrial trade fairs in Hanover. The CEOs of the three companies are in Germany to show the rest of Europe that it is possible to produce fossil free steel. Photo: SSAB

The Swedish steel industry exposes at the Hanover Fair

"revolutionary steel industry changeover"

- The Swedish initiative for fossil-free steel production, HYBRIT, participates this week at the...