Aqua Metals has recovered high-purity lithium hydroxide (LiOH) from lithium-ion battery black mass at the company’s Li AquaRefining recycling facility located at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRIC). (Earlier post.)
The production and availability of the first recycled lithium hydroxide at scale will help close the supply chain loop for critical battery metals in the US. The immediate recovery of lithium hydroxide also improves the economics of recycling advanced battery chemistries such as lithium iron phosphate (LFP), where lithium makes up most of the valuable material, unlike current nickel and cobalt-based batteries.
The company’s Li AquaRefining pilot facility is a closed-loop recycling system able to recover all the critical resources contained in spent lithium batteries primarily using electricity, and without the polluting furnaces or intensive chemical processes typical of recycling. Aqua Metals plans to produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide directly from black mass using its patent-pending, regenerative electro-hydrometallurgy process, made to suit manufacturer specifications.
Lithium hydroxide is often preferred over lithium carbonate or other lithium salts for cathode material in electric vehicles and energy storage systems due to its ease of use in manufacturing and superior electrochemical performance, powering safer batteries that are more efficient and longer lasting.
Aqua Metals in January electroplated its first critical battery metal—copper—from Li-ion black mass. This is now joined by the extraction of LiOH.
Aqua Metals’ Li AquaRefining Pilot became operational in 2022 and is the first pilot scale electro-hydrometallurgy battery recycling facility in North America. It is the only source of recycled battery-grade lithium hydroxide as feedstock for electric vehicle batteries and energy storage systems. The pilot facility is designed to recover lithium hydroxide and manganese dioxide, as well as pure cobalt, nickel, and copper metals, from spent lithium-ion batteries, and provides the design basis for the company’s 10,000 ton per year lithium battery recycling campus planned for phased development starting later this year.