Precious materials have been successfully extracted from spent EV batteries, in a triumph for UK deep tech and Manchester University spinout, Watercycle Technologies Ltd.
The company, which is focused on developing sustainable mineral extraction and water treatment systems, has for the first time recovered commercial grade lithium carbonate and near 100% pure graphite from Black Mass, a solid black powder containing a complex mixture of metals and impurities recovered from the recycling of end-of-life Lithium-ion batteries.
Conducted in partnership with global precious metal recovery specialists, RSBruce of Sheffield, a spokesman said the test work on 1kg of Black Mass “validates Watercycle’s pioneering technology and underpins the major contribution that deep tech university spin outs are playing in championing the UK’s ambitions for the energy transition and attainment of a Circular Economy.”
The successful trial marks the first step forward in commercialising Watercycle’s DLECTM technology.
Watercycle co-founder and CTO Dr Ahmed Abdelkarim said, “Atoms were first split in Manchester by Ernst Rutherford and likewise, the Watercycle team is the first in the UK to extract both lithium carbonate and graphite from Black Mass.
“These results demonstrate that our ground-breaking technology can recycle critical minerals from Black Mass cost effectively, sustainably and with little waste. We expected to produce high grade lithium carbonate but the addition of the recovery of nearly 100% graphite is extremely exciting and a potential game changer. Graphite represents between 30-40% of the minerals in an EV battery and the demand forecasts, as with lithium, are extremely pronounced as the world looks to decarbonise.”
Co-founder and CEO Dr Seb Leaper added, “The battery recycling market is estimated to grow from USD 17.2 billion in 2020 to USD 23.2 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 6.1% from 2020 to 2025. There is therefore a fantastic commercial opportunity for companies that can recycle Black Mass and, having proven that we can extract multiple high-grade materials, we can now not only potentially generate significant revenue but also aid the transition towards a Circular Economy.”
RSBruce Battery Recycling Business Manager Sam Haig said, “We are very pleased with these ground-breaking results, which demonstrate the potential to increase material recovery from end-of-life batteries and ensure a reliable harvest of valuable raw materials for battery manufacturing. Accordingly, we look forward to continuing the collaboration with Watercycle and are now exploring plans to develop a pilot plant project.”