More efficient production of battery materials

The University of Queensland

Thursday, 02 August, 2018


More efficient production of battery materials

Pure Battery Technologies, a start-up company spun out of The University of Queensland (UQ), is commercialising a process to extract nickel and cobalt from low-grade ores more cheaply and effectively than current methods — a breakthrough that is set to have a particularly significant impact on the rising electric vehicle (EV) industry.

As explained by the company’s Managing Director and CEO, Bjorn Zikarsky, the affordability and profitability of the electric vehicle industry had increased with game-changing advancements in battery technology, and demand is also increasing for battery-supported clean energy such as wind and solar. The result? Growing demand for batteries — and, by extension, nickel and cobalt — is growing at about 15% a year, with the demand for cobalt exceeding supply globally.

The good news, Zikarsky said, is that Pure Battery Technologies “is using UQ’s patented acid leaching process to produce battery-ready nickel and cobalt products more easily, and at lower capital and operational expense”.

The result of eight years of research and development by UQ hydrometallurgists Dr James Vaughan and Dr Will Hawker, the process “also offers a higher cobalt recovery than is currently possible, is energy efficient with little solid waste or tailings, and has a very small footprint”, Zikarsky continued.

“Our process has very little environmental impact and consumes less carbon dioxide and chemicals compared to other processes,” he said.

The technology was licensed to Pure Battery Technologies by UniQuest, UQ’s commercialisation company. Zikarsky said the spin-out is now working to raise the investment needed to build a demonstration plant to produce up to 5000 tonnes of nickel a year.

“We are pursuing a diversified corporate strategy — in addition to developing our own battery material products, we aim to partner with other producers to enable them to benefit from this technology in other applications,” he said.

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said his company has been “working with Dr Vaughan and Dr Hawker since 2011 to commercialise this technology and to help them carry out extensive testing with major nickel laterite producers”.

“We’re looking forward to Pure Battery Technologies taking the technology to market,” he said.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/rouakcz

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