Watercycle Technologies Ltd, a UK-based technology company focused on developing sustainable mineral extraction and water treatment systems has, for the first time, recovered commercial grade lithium carbonate and nearly 100% pure graphite from Black Mass, a solid black powder containing complex mixed metals. and debris obtained from recycling exhausted Lithium-ion batteries.
Conducted in partnership with globally renowned precious metals recovery specialist RSBruce, trials on 1 kg Black Mass validate Watercycle’s breakthrough technology and support the major contribution that technology universities are playing in championing the UK’s ambitions for energy transition and the achievement of a Circular Economy.
- Watercycle technology is proven to recover commercial-grade critical minerals from Black Mass found in lithium-ion batteries that are near the end of their lives:
- Lithium Carbonate
- Cobalt, Nickel and Manganese
- Advance partnership with RSBruce to develop tonnage-scale field trials to fulfill Watercycle’s strategy of providing the UK’s first environmental solution for the recycling and supply of critical minerals.
- Marks the first step forward in commercializing DLEC WatercycleTM technology.
Watercycle co-founder and CTO Dr Ahmed Abdelkarim said, “Atoms were first split in Manchester by Ernst Rutherford and similarly, the WCT team was the first in England to extract lithium carbonate and graphite from the Black Mass. These results demonstrate that our breakthrough technology can recycle essential minerals from Black Mass cost-effectively, sustainably and with less waste. We hope to produce high grade lithium carbonate but the addition of nearly 100% graphite recovery is exciting and a potential game changer. Graphite represents between 30-40% of the minerals in EV batteries and demand forecasts, like for lithium, are very clear as the world wants to decarbonize.”
Watercycle co-founder and CEO Dr Seb Leaper add, “The battery recycling market is expected to grow from USD 17.2 billion in 2020 to USD 23.2 billion in 2025, at a CAGR of 6.1% from 2020 to 2025. There is therefore a tremendous commercial opportunity for a company that can recycle Black Mass and, having proven that we can extract a lot of high-grade materials, we now have the potential to not only generate significant revenue but also help the transition to a Circular Economy.”
RS Battery Recycling Business Manager Bruce Sam Haig said, “We are very pleased with this groundbreaking result, which demonstrates the potential to enhance material recovery from exhausted batteries and ensure reliable harvesting of valuable raw materials for battery manufacturing. Therefore, we look forward to continuing our collaboration with Watercycle and are currently exploring plans to develop a pilot plant project.”
Tests & Results
As part of Watercycle’s development strategy, in collaboration with RSBruce, a globally renowned precious metals recovery expert based in Sheffield, a Feasibility Study was conducted with the aim of maximizing the recovery of graphite and lithium carbonate from spent batteries which can then be used in the EV supply chain for environmental solutions. UK’s best for recycling and supply of essential minerals.
Test work was carried out on 1 kg of Black Mass supplied by RSBruce – this is a solid powder containing an admixture of metals and impurities obtained from recycling exhausted Lithium-ion batteries. The composition of Black Misa consists mostly of cobalt, nickel, manganese and lithium, while also containing appreciable amounts of iron, aluminum and copper. Based on analysis, Black Mass contains graphite with a percentage of up to 40%.
Black Mass samples were prepared for analysis, characterization and treatment using Watercycle’s proprietary membrane filtration process to recover graphite, lithium carbonate and residual black mass solutions consisting of nickel, manganese and cobalt in three separate streams. The resulting lithium rich solution was then processed through the Watercycle lithium extraction and crystallization process with the resulting crystals then characterized by X-ray diffraction (‘XRD’) and compared with the commercial product.
The results demonstrate significant opportunities to recover value added product from Black Mass processing using Watercycle systems. In particular, the Watercycle system is more expensive and environmentally friendly than its competitors due to its multistep extraction process which allows high value by-products to be recovered which can be sold or reused and thus can offset reagent costs in the wider process.
Under the terms of the Agreement with RSBruce, following the successful completion of the Feasibility Study, Watercycle and RSBruce are now working to complete a pilot plant development plan.