Aqua Metals, a company specialising in sustainable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery recycling, has announced the successful recovery of high-purity nickel from lithium battery ‘black mass’, or shredded end-of-life batteries, using its proprietary Li AquaRefining process. The technology uses an innovative application of electroplating in a closed loop, eliminating the need for energy-intensive and wasteful chemical processes that increase the cost and pollution associated with recycling, the company said in a press statement.

Nickel is a key resource in the global push for electrification and clean energy technologies and is often a substantial portion of the cost of electric vehicle batteries and energy storage systems. Aqua Metals’ solution for recovering all valuable metals in Li-ion battery recycling supports a circular supply chain and positions the company for an important role in meeting the growing demand for sustainably produced domestic metals.

“Aqua Metals continues to drive clean battery recycling forward, and recovering high purity nickel without a polluting smelter or train loads of one-time-use chemicals and costly waste streams is a landmark achievement for the industry,” said Steve Cotton, Aqua Metals’ president and CEO.

The Li AquaRefining Pilot is now the only operational electro-hydrometallurgy lithium battery recycling facility in North America. Current commercial lithium battery recycling methods use an energy-intensive smelting process that involves high temperatures, produces toxic fumes and is unable to recover usable lithium or manganese.

“Using AquaRefining we can eliminate these hazards, which creates a safer work environment, minimises transport of chemicals and demonstrates our commitment to equitable and responsible recycling that benefits our community,” said Ben Taecker, chief engineering and operations officer at Aqua Metals.

Aqua Metals is currently scaling operations at its Li AquaRefining Pilot facility and ramping up production of high-value products such as pure nickel, copper and lithium hydroxide. The company recently announced plans for the development of an integrated clean metals recycling campus and is commissioning a 3,000-tonne per year commercial recycling facility on the five-acre site as the first phase of the expansion.

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