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Saft teams up with Singapore start-up to tackle batteries

Singapore start-up Neu Battery Materials has joined forces with French battery producer Saft to boost LiFePO4 (LFP) battery recycling. They believe that this is ‘key’ to a sustainable future and have started laboratory trials to optimise the recycling Saft manufacturing scraps.

Neu Battery Materials is currently building a pilot recycling plant in Singapore, in partnership with recycling firm Se-cure Waste Management. The project is backed by a EUR 5 million investment from Momentum Venture Capital and will enable the recycler to process 150 tonnes of lithium-ion type batteries per year.

Neu Battery Materials is bringing to market a patented electrochemical redox flow recycling process that was originally invented by company co-founder Professor Wang Qing of the NUS College of Design and Engineering.

How does it work? First, the batteries are discharged and dismantled. A series of crushing procedures reduces and sorts through the key components of the battery. The remaining black mass then enters the electrochemical redox flow recycling process, which involves the following steps:

  • The black mass is put into an anodic reactor tank, which is filled with a proprietary mix of chemicals. These chemicals will react with the black mass, to extract out the lithium. Unlike traditional battery recycling methods, this proprietary mix of chemicals does not include harsh acids.
  • The solution is circulated between the tank and the electrolyser. Electricity facilitates the movement of lithium across to the cathodic reactor tank.
  • The cathodic reactor tank is filled with water, which reacts with the lithium to form aqueous lithium hydroxide.
  • The lithium hydroxide is dried, resulting in battery-grade lithium hydroxide powder. This can be sold to battery manufacturers.

‘I’ve been conducting research in the area of electrochemistry and flow batteries for the past twenty years, and believe that electrochemical battery recycling is the future, set to replace hydrometallurgy and pyrometallurgy,’ says Professor Wang. ‘This recycling process is the first time that it has been demonstrated to be possible to recycle lithium from the cheapest battery type – which is the lithium iron phosphate battery. I am delighted that our team will be commercialising this technology, and demonstrating its use in battery recycling.’

The high demand for lithium batteries will continue to ‘increase drastically’ as electric cars become mainstream, observes company ceo Bryan Oh. ‘We want to further develop and bring to market a method for producing sustainable lithium, resulting in clean and sustainable lithium batteries.’

Oh points out that the chemicals used are regenerative, allowing multiple cycles using the same batch of chemicals, significantly lowering pollution levels.

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