Australian lithium mineral firm Lithium Australia has developed an environment-friendly lithium battery mostly using lithium recycled from waste minerals and waste batteries.
The product may be an answer to the concern on the supply of lithium, caused by the surging demands, due to rapidly expanding applications of such batteries, notably electric cars and renewable energy storage systems, as well as the problem for the disposal of increasingly large amount of used lithium batteries.
The environment-friendly lithium-ion battery features "SiLeach" process technology, which employs tri-lithium phosphate (Li3PO4), extracted from abandoned lithium mine, which is then converted to lithium ion phosphate (LFP), as material for cathode.
SiLeach technology is a new wet-type metallurgical method, which can extract lithium from low-tier lithium mica or minerals, via a simplified procedure, skipping heating process, with limited damage to environment. Adrian Griffin, president of Lithium Australia, noted that the technology greatly simplifies the process for production of cathode materials, significantly lowering the cost.
By comparison, traditional lime process has to employ concentrated mineral with higher contents of lithium oxide, which is mixed with lime for sintering before treatment with water for multiple evaporations before obtaining highly pure lithium hydroxide from crystals. The process is time consuming and need a lot of heat, with temperate topping 1,000 ℃.
Lithium Australia is also developing recycling technology for lithium batteries. At present, only 800 tons of used batteries are recycled in Australia, compared with 8,000 tons which are buried in landfills.
According to a report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia, recycling rate of used lithium batteries in Australia reaches only 2%, with the value of used batteries buried in landfills estimated at 813 million to 3 billion Australian dollars a year. The amount of used lithium batteries will top 100,000 tons by 2036.
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(First photo courtesy of Sh4rp_i via Flickr CC BY 2.0, written by Daisy Chuang)