Periodic Table

Circular Economy in the Use and Recycling of Battery Metals is Achieved with Molecular Recognition Technology™ (MRT™)

In contrast to MRT™, classical separation processes for separation of lithium, cobalt and nickel are complex, expensive, have extensive time and space requirements, typically have low recoveries, and generate extensive waste.

Growth of the electric vehicle industry and the increasing need for electric storage are accelerating demand for the major metals in lithium-ion batteries (lithium, cobalt, nickel) and threaten to outstrip their supply during the coming decade. Overall recycling rates for these metals are low: lithium, <1%, cobalt, ~30%, nickel, ~68%. Present recycling methods are inefficient using organic extractants and other low-tech methods. SuperLig® MRT™ processes are available for the separation and recovery at high purities of each of these metals from leach solutions derived from recycled materials.

MRT™ Provides a Green Pathway to Battery Metal Sustainability

Our Direct Lithium to Product™ (DLP™) Section describes IBC’s Direct Lithium to Product™ (DLP™) process for direct production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate or lithium carbonate from brines, ores and recycled materials.

Our Highly Selective Separations: SuperLig® Section reviews the purification of cobalt (Co) electrolyte through removal of cadmium (Cd) impurity to produce battery-grade cobalt.

The selective separation of cobalt and copper using SuperLig® MRT™ from a feed stream containing cobalt, copper and other base metals is illustrated below. High purity copper (vial 4) and high purity cobalt (vial 8) are produced.

Results at a major cobalt and copper mine demonstrate the highly efficient purification of cobalt using MRT™:

  • Cadmium and copper removed from cobalt to less than 0.1 mg/L
  • Cadmium and copper recovered at >99% purity levels
  • Recovered cadmium and copper either marketed to offset costs or disposed of safely
  • No cobalt losses: cobalt and other metals are rejected by the SuperLig® resins and go to raffinate
  • No solvents or harsh chemicals: SuperLig® resins re-used multiple times by elution with 1 M sulfuric acid (for cadmium) or 2 M sulfuric acid (for copper)
  • Low capex and opex: reduction of requirement for equipment, labor, space, chemicals
  • Minimal waste generation

Nickel laterite ores are particularly difficult to process due to the presence of high levels of impurity metals.

Advantages of MRT™ for the extraction, polishing, and refining of nickel and cobalt from laterite ore leach feed solutions containing high concentrations of iron, other base metals and contaminants include:

  • Placement of the MRT plant up front in the flow sheet as the primary extraction and refining step  for nickel and cobalt
  • Production of a high purity nickel concentrate
  • High grade nickel metal obtained by electro-winning or direct precipitation to nickel hydroxide after pH adjustment
  • Production of a high purity cobalt concentrate
  • Production of high grade cobalt metal by electro–winning or direct precipitation to cobalt hydroxide after pH adjustment
  • Use of one SuperLig® product for recovery of both nickel and cobalt as high purity product solutions

SuperLig® MRT™ Processes Span a Range of Applications for the Separation and Purification of Cobalt and Nickel

  1. Application SuperLig® Resin
    1.  Extraction and polishing of iron from cobalt stream in sulfuric acid matrix SuperLig® 48
    2. Cadmium removal from cobalt electrolyte SuperLig® 177
    3. Extraction and purification of copper from cobalt process streams SuperLig® 77
    4. Extraction and polishing nickel from a cobalt stream in sulfuric acid matrix SuperLig® 241
    5. Extraction and polishing nickel from a cobalt stream in a nitric acid matrix SuperLig® 199
    6. Co-extraction of copper, iron, and nickel from a cobalt stream in a sulfuric acid matrix SuperLig® 176
    7. Co-extraction of cobalt and nickel from a nickel laterite ore process stream with separate elutions for cobalt and nickel SuperLig® 138
    8. Separate extractions of nickel, copper, and iron from concentrated acidic cobalt/base metal solutions with separate elutions producing pure salt products Solution pH 1
    Cu: SuperLig® 86
    Fe:  SuperLig® 14
    Ni:  SuperLig® 199
    Co: SuperLig® 138
    9. Separate extractions of copper/iron, nickel and cobalt from concentrated acidic cobalt/base metal solutions with separate elutions producing pure salt products Solution pH 2
    Cu/Fe: SuperLig® 145
    Ni:  SuperLig® 199
    Co:  SuperLig® 138