Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co has developed a process to recover nickel and cobalt from rechargeable batteries that can be reused as raw materials for lithium-ion-batteries (LIBs).
The country’s biggest nickel smelter, which has been able to recover nickel and copper from rechargeable batteries since 2017, has now found a way to recover a high-purity nickel-cobalt mix, it announced on Monday.
After manufacturing and evaluating LIB cathode material from the recycled nickel-cobalt mixture, experiments have shown the performance of the batteries was equivalent to those made using raw materials derived from natural resources.
“No commercialisation plans have been set yet, but we will continue to work on the development toward making it commercially viable,” a company spokesperson said.
Sumitomo Metal supplies nickel-based cathode materials for Panasonic Corp’s LIBs that are used in Tesla Inc electric vehicles (EVs).
As the world moves to meet stringent targets for cutting carbon emissions – partly by phasing out internal-combustion-engine cars – demand for lithium, cobalt and nickel vital for electric vehicle batteries is set to soar, raising the prospect of shortages.
Securing stable supplies is a major challenge as production regions for these rare metals are unevenly distributed, which makes demand for recycling greater.
“If we can commercialise this ‘battery to battery’ recycling process, we can contribute to a formation of sustainable circular economy and response to global resource depletion,” Sumitomo Metal said.