Process & TechnologyPrimobius GmbH
Primobius is developing a sustainable recycling solution that targets the recovery of battery materials that are contained in production scrap and end-of-life lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), materials that might otherwise be disposed of in landfill or processed in high-emission pyrometallurgical recovery circuits. The Primobius’ process flowsheet targets the recovery of valuable materials from consumer electronic batteries (devices with lithium cobalt oxide (LCO) cathodes), and nickel‐rich EV and stationary storage battery chemistries (lithium‐nickel-manganese‐cobalt (NMC) cathodes). The LIB Recycling Technology is designed to recover cobalt, nickel, lithium, copper, iron, aluminium, carbon, plastics and manganese into saleable products that can be reused in the battery supply chain.
Our sustainable hydrometallurgical approach represents an extremely safe method of extracting metals at ordinary temperature with recirculating liquid solvents to bring high-purity chemicals back into the battery supply chain. Today’s incumbent ‘pyrometallurgical’ approach can be seen as a sunset technology for recycling while hydrometallurgical recycling is the sunrise approach, poised to do the heavy lifting to reduce the current high carbon footprint of LIBs.
As a first step, the plant shreds spent batteries of different sizes and types, then sorts the plastic and metal components from the so-called "black mass". The two-stage shredding process is followed by drying and beneficiation to separate coarse metal and plastic materials from feed for processing in the hydrometallurgical section of the plant. These materials are drummed for sale as scrap to existing metal and plastic recyclers. The process can safely shred individual cells without requiring prior discharge owing to its multiple safety systems which include wet shredding and an inert gas shrouded environment to manage fire risk.
Primobius anticipates situations where modules may need to be disassembled into constituent cells. Where this is not the case, modules may need to be discharged to a specified maximum level to limit the aggregate contained power before they are shredded. The dimensions of each format and state of charge post receival to plant will influence the requirement.
The black mass product from Stage 1 contains the active materials for the operation of batteries. During the following hydrometallurgical processes, it is possible to extract from these active materials lithium, nickel and cobalt in a suitable form for reuse in making battery cathode materials.
The feed to Stage 2 (black mass) is processed in the leach circuit to extract cobalt, nickel, manganese copper and lithium. The pregnant leach solution (PLS) is separated from the solid leach residue. Further purification of PLS results in the recovery of cobalt and nickel as high purity sulphates suitable for potential sale directly back into the LiB supply chain. The recovery of lithium as a sulphate will enable its conversion to either lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate and re-use in batteries. The manganese and copper sulphates are saleable to existing refineries of these metals or for direct industrial use. The solid leach residue contains the graphite anode material which will be dried and drummed for sale. The final product is a liquid ammonium sulphate solution, which will be concentrated and crystallised for sale into the fertiliser market.
In Primobius' flexible and robust technology safety has the highest priority. During the process risks are always addressed right from the beginning. Old batteries are handled responsibly to prevent fires and the release of hazardous substances.