Aqua Metals produces high-purity lithium hydroxide directly from recycled lithium-ion batteries
Process recovers lithium in the form suited for battery manufacturing
Aqua Metals, Inc. has recovered high-purity lithium hydroxide from lithium-ion battery black mass at the company's Li AquaRefining recycling facility located at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRIC).
The production and availability of recycled lithium hydroxide at scale will help close the supply chain loop for critical battery metals in the U.S., paving the way for a more sustainable, efficient battery manufacturing industry. The immediate recovery of lithium hydroxide also improves the economics of recycling advanced battery chemistries like lithium iron phosphate (LFP), where lithium makes up most of the valuable material, unlike current nickel and cobalt-based batteries.
"We believe this new capability can have a profound impact on the lithium battery industry in North America," says Steve Cotton, CEO and president of Aqua Metals. "Our sustainably recycled lithium can help ensure a robust supply of critical metals to meet the Inflation Reduction Act's ambitious goals for domestic content and enables us to share samples and advance our discussions with prospective partners in battery and cathode manufacturing."
The company's Li AquaRefining pilot facility is a closed-loop recycling system able to recover all the critical resources contained in spent lithium batteries using primarily electricity and without the furnaces or intensive chemical processes typical of battery recycling. Aqua Metals plans to produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide directly from black mass using its regenerative electro-hydrometallurgy process, made to suit manufacturer specifications.
Lithium hydroxide is often preferred over lithium carbonate or other lithium salts for cathode material in electric vehicles and energy storage systems due to its ease of use in manufacturing and superior electrochemical performance, powering safer batteries that are more efficient and longer lasting.
"Successfully scaling up our unique lithium hydroxide recovery process is a major technical milestone for the industry, heralding an era of low-emissions, circular supply of critical battery metals produced from domestic resources," says Ben Taecker, chief engineering and operations officer at Aqua Metals. "Producing large quantities of recycled feedstock is new to battery manufacturing, and our ability to combine the recycling and refining of lithium into one process avoids unnecessary waste streams, lowers overall costs, and improves supply chain efficiency for the rapidly growing lithium battery industry."
Aqua Metals' Li AquaRefining Pilot became operational in 2022, and Aqua Metals says that it is the first pilot-scale electro-hydrometallurgy battery recycling facility in North America. The pilot facility is designed to recover lithium hydroxide and manganese dioxide, as well as pure cobalt, nickel, and copper metals from spent lithium-ion batteries and provides the design basis for the company's 10,000 ton per year lithium battery recycling campus planned for phased development starting later in 2023.