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The demand for lithium (li) has almost quadrupled over the last decade paired with a staggering price hike. Supply still seems to be keeping up with the increasing demand, yet experts fear future supply chain bottlenecks, especially due to the limited geographic concentration of lithium production. More than 90% of global production results from four countries with deposits forecast to be depleted by 2055.

Effective reuse and recycling of the raw material is therefore paramount across all stages of the production and use cycle to mitigate any possible future risks. It ensures maximum usage of available resources cost-effectively while reducing the environmental impact of primary lithium production and decreasing dependency on imports of raw materials.

Giving New Life to Previously Unrecovered Li in Batteries

With the development of an integrated Lithium recycling facility at a pilot plant site in Belgium, the RELiEF team will establish a process to produce battery materials from secondary and low-grade lithium sources, previously not recycled. These sources may be solid materials such as waste slag from the lithium metal production or liquid such as wastewater containing lithium generated during battery recycling.

Technically, central to the project is the development of safe and efficient pre-processing unit operations for solid input materials, while ensuring a selective and high rate of lithium leaching as well as the recovery of lithium selectively from the liquid stream. This also includes the recovery of high-purity lithium derivatives. Battery materials will be developed in a continuous process to recover functional battery-grade material. This will be complemented by improved process flow sheets and a new business model that ensures the economic competitiveness of the newly developed process.