Project to revolutionise lead
© Gabriel Acquistapace

Project to revolutionise lead-acid battery recycling

Aurelius Environmental and Dr Vasant Kumar from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy (DMSM) have won a grant worth over €1.3m to develop a novel hydrometallurgical process.

With the University of Cambridge as a partner and sub-contractor, Aurelius has been awarded the grant money under the Horizon 2020 programme. Aurelius has received licensing support from Cambridge Enterprise, the university’s commercial arm.

Dr Athan Fox, technology director, said: “We believe in a fully sustainable business, where waste streams enter our processes and nothing but products leave; where multiple recycling infrastructures complement each other – one stream’s waste being another stream’s in-feed. Our journey towards this vision begins here, with a technology poised to revolutionise the recycling of lead-acid batteries.”

CEO Miles Freeman says that the recycling of used lead-acid batteries is turning the corner to a “greener, cleaner and more sustainable process”.

“With the advent of new electrolysis-based processes coming from the US and still under development within the EU, a new recycling era dawns. There is indeed the need for improvements in quality of secondary lead and for continued advancement in lead-acid battery technology to meet the ever-increasing demand for advanced electrochemical storage capacity,” said Freeman.

Industrialisation and commercialisation of the process is currently nine months into its development and a full-scale production capacity plant is expected to be operating by early 2018.

Fox added: “The key advantages of our hydrometallurgical process include a reduction in the carbon footprint – compared to smelting – by over 80%; virtually zero emissions of noxious gases like SO2 and NO2; and lead oxide produced directly from waste batteries.

“By producing lead oxide directly from spent batteries, we are effectively eliminating the need to oxidise lead ingot or to source lead metal from the open market.”