Recovery of Lithium and Heavy Non-Ferrous Metals from Spent Lithium-Ion Batteries

Valery Kaplan, Ellen Wachtel, Yishay Feldman, Igor Lubomirsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe an economical and environmentally advantageous, mechanical/chemical procedure for recycling spent lithium-ion batteries removed from a portable computer. The battery cathode comprises complex Li-based oxides: lithium-cobalt-oxide, lithium-nickel-cobalt-aluminum oxide and/or lithium-nickel-cobalt oxide, while the anode is constructed from a graphite-coated copper foil. Other carbon-containing materials should also be present. The electrolyte, the composition of which is not made available by the manufacturer, is probably a Li salt in organic solvent. Following hand removal of the non-metallic container, the battery elements undergo crushing/milling; no other component separation procedure is performed or required. Sixty minute dilute natural gas (4 vol.% in N2) sintering under reducing conditions (673–1123 K), followed by ice-water leaching, is used to efficiently separate Li from the heavy metals in the form of lithium carbonate at high yield and purity; 0.5 h smelting (1773 K) of the remaining metal clinker in air in a closed ceramic crucible, with sodium tetraborate as flux, allows recovery of the heavy, non-ferrous metals (Ni, Co, Cu and their alloys) as mm-size ingots (39% Co, 32.2% Ni, 26.3% Cu). Iron compounds, remanent Li, Al and unburnt graphite are removed as slag. Neither corrosive acids nor costly reagents are required, and hazardous liquid waste is not generated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5859-5867
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.


The research described in this report is supported in part by Champion Motors, Ltd., Israel, and is also made possible by the historic generosity of the Harold Perlman Family. The authors acknowledge the assistance of Stephen Fox in performance of the ICP-MS measurements.

FundersFunder number
Champion Motors, Ltd.


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