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URT Recycling Technology helping lithium battery recyclers move forward

Celebrating another signed contract at URT Recycling Technology’s booth during the E-Waste conference in Frankfurt. From left to right: Florian Hessler (URT), Michael Kedwesch (RE.LION.BAT Circular), Christoph Spandau (RE.LION.BAT Circular), Peter Hessler (URT), Thomas Deppe (RE.LION.BAT Circular GmbH).

Battery recycling is here to stay, insists Germany’s URT Umwelt- und Recyclingtechnik (URT Recycling Technology). Over the past ten years, the company has developed an expertise and solid business in building lithium-ion battery processing plants serving customers around the globe.

Lithium-ion battery recycling has been an essential part of e-mobility from the very beginning. The activity is justified by the high-quality scrap delivering important valuable materials required for the production of new batteries.

Germany’s URT Umwelt- und Recyclingtechnik has tackled lithium-ion battery recycling head on. The plant manufacturer has been operating in the wider recycling market for 30 years and became established by constructing plants to treat WEEE scrap, in particular end-of-life refrigerators. For more than 10 years now, it has developed another business expertise, the construction of plants for recycling lithium-ion batteries.

At the heart of URT are Florian and Peter Hessler and Bernhard Biener. Peter Hessler is the md, son Florian is an authorised signatory and responsible for sales while Biener is the company’s technical director.


In 2011, the work started with an exciting project called LithoRec-2. The main goal was to develop mechanical, thermal and chemical processes for recycling lithium-ion batteries. Alongside partners Volkswagen and TU Braunschweig, URT was involved and built a prototype plant. Within the plant, it was possible to shred cells and cells packs and convert them into a homogeneous state under a nitrogen atmosphere. This procedure was the starting point for all subsequent processing: thermomechanical drying, hydrometallurgical treatment or pyrometallurgical treatment.


Inert shredding part of the URT lithium-Ion battery recycling plant at STENA in Sweden.

The knowledge gained from these development steps is the basis for today’s concept from the plant manufacturer. During those early days, recalls URT’s md Hessler, he did not expect LithoRec-2 to develop into an entire business segment. ‘After all, in 2011 all original equipment manufacturers in Germany were opposing electromobility,’ he says. ‘Nevertheless, URT has greatly developed the concept and built a pilot plant at Volkswagen in Salzgitter in 2020. This important step served to gather more know-how. As examples, this included the resistance of the sealing materials, bulk material behaviour and controlling the purities.’


With this knowledge, URT has been building turnkey recycling plants at an industrial level using thermomechanical treatment since 2021. The advantage of this treatment is the preservation of lithium in the black mass. As a result, more than 98% of the dry black mass can be recovered by URT plants. Much of the solvent released in the process is also condensed and recovered.

The construction of industrial plants has resulted in new requirements for throughput, operational safety and plant automation. Depending on the input requirements and emission guidelines of the individual countries, plants are always built specifically for the customer. For example, it is possible to double the throughput of the plant later on.

Shredding and vacuum drying part of the URT lithium-Ion battery recycling plant at Stena in Sweden.

Essential here is the prior knowledge gained from constructing refrigerator recycling plants regarding inert shredding, airlock technology and how to prevent diffuse emissions, particularly the release of solvents from the electrolytes. ‘These are hydrogen-based, which is congruent with refrigerators,’ adds Hessler. ‘In this way, knowledge about explosivity and flammability can also be reused. This is a decisive factor for plant and operational safety.’


The current technology and process steps incorporate this knowledge. Beginning with the inert one step shredding, previously discharged batteries or battery parts are transported via sluice technology into a nitrogen-flooded shredder, where they are shredded to a specific size. The input material is then fed via bunker systems into one or more vacuum distillation dryers, where the solvents evaporate from the electrolytes and are subsequently collected.

Here it is essential to find the right temperature, residence time and vacuum to match the input and cell chemistry. In the next step, the entire output material is cooled and then enters the first screening machine, allowing a large part of the black mass to be screened. This early generation results in 70-80% of the dry black mass. The challenge here is to recover the black mass as pure as possible, with low impurities such as aluminium from the housings or organic materials and films. ‘The shredding process is crucial here,’ Hessler stresses.

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