Sustainable and Green Production of Nickel by Collocating both Primary Nickel Ore Processing and Li-ion Battery Recycling

L. Pan
Michigan Technological University,
United States

Keywords: nickel, sustainable, green production, lithium-ion battery recycling, metal refining


Procurement of raw materials and localization of supply chain of electric vehicle batteries has been the top priority for the US automotive industry. Nickel sulfate (NiSO4) is the key refined material for manufacturing nickel-rich cathode active materials, which are used in Lithium-ion batteries for both electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage applications. The US will have ~250 GWh of battery manufacturing capacity online by 2025 but does not currently produce any battery-grade NiSO4 or CoSO4 from either secondary spent Li-ion batteries or primary ores. The existing metal refining technology for both Li-ion battery recycling and domestic sulfide nickel ores is energy intensive, and a new metal refining technology is needed to lower both the cost and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission per nickel unit. Prof. Lei Pan’s team at Michigan Technological University is developing a new sustainable metal refining technology that enables the co-extraction of battery metals from mixed feed resources including primary sulfide ores and black mass recycled from spent Li-ion batteries. This new technology lowers both the energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission per nickel unit by at least 25% compared to the state of the art. The new technology has achieved over 95% extraction rate of valuable metals, e.g. nickel, cobalt, copper, lithium, from mixed feed materials. The separation and recovery technology which is currently under the development enables 90%-99% recovery rate of all battery metals.