A new method for recycling cobalt developed by Ian Nicholls’ research group moves us towards a greener battery industry. The method addresses two major problems with current recycling: high energy costs and dangerous waste. The method involves dissolving the lithium cobalt oxide, a substance used in modern lithium-ion batteries, using a liquid solvent, that separates the cobalt, which can subsequently be used for fabricating new batteries.

The main benefit of the new solvent, compared to widely used methods for recycling cobalt, is that the process can take place at much lower temperatures. “In our case, the reaction is as most efficient at 180 degrees Celsius. That makes our method much more energy efficient than today’s commercial options, such as pyrometallurgy, which require extreme temperatures, often exceeding 1400 degrees,” says Ian Nicholls.

The researchers have extracted over 97 percent of the cobalt from pieces of lithium cobalt oxide that has spent two days in the heated solvent. The raw cobalt has then been used to produce new batteries, which in turn have been recycled with maintained effect. New batteries have been constructed in collaboration with researchers at Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India. The researchers at Linnaeus University see the results as a step towards greener battery production.

Source: Linnæus University

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