lead refining process
Illustration courtesy of Aqua Metals

Aqua Metals is developing a method to streamline recycling process

The company has submitted a provisional patent for the process that is expected to create key active battery material directly from AquaRefining.

January 29, 2021

Aqua Metals Inc., McCarran, Nevada, says it has filed a provisional patent for a new methodology for producing battery-manufacturing-ready active material directly from its AquaRefining process, which it says has demonstrated promising results. The company says it expects the new process to provide added economic and environmental benefits for AquaRefining licensees.

spongey metals and briquettes
© Aqua Metals
Spongy metal from the AquaRefining electrolyzers is compressed into briquettes which the company says can go directly to new battery manufacturing.

The active material, lead oxide, is the key ingredient used in a battery and comprises more than half of a battery’s lead content, Aqua Metals says. The traditional method used to produce oxide for lead batteries is a four-step process: (1) smelting lead recovered from used batteries or AquaRefining into lead briquettes; (2) refining that lead to the proper purity; (3) casting the lead into ingots and (4) remelting those ingots to be placed in an oxide reactor for oxide manufacturing. Aqua Metals’ new approach would help the $65 billion lead-acid battery industry bypass steps 2 and 3 (refining and ingoting), resulting in significant savings in time, money and emissions as the AquaRefined lead briquettes would transition directly to the melting stage at the oxide manufacturer, the company says.

“Because AquaRefining achieves such high purity (currently in excess of 99.996 percent), it provides the opportunity to bypass the refining stage and take briquetted AquaRefined lead directly to the battery manufacturing process,” says Steve Cotton, president and CEO of Aqua Metals. “Bypassing the refining and ingoting steps would enable recyclers that license and deploy AquaRefining equipment to reduce costs from labor and processing time as well as reduce the environmental impact of recycling and manufacturing new batteries. By helping to efficiently bridge this resource-intensive gap between the battery recycling and the battery manufacturing processes, our new capability can potentially bring additional environmental and cost benefits for our future customers.”

Cotton says the company has worked with a well-established lead oxide manufacturer for testing. “Results from our initial production are very promising, and we are engaged in ongoing R&D for this new, innovative process.”

He adds that Aqua Metals has started discussions with some potential licensees for AquaRefining about the new process. “We expect this development to be a very attractive added benefit, both to battery recyclers and manufacturers,” Cotton adds.