Finland-based Circular Ecosystem of Battery Metals (BATCircle)
The BATCircle consortium was kicked off a few months ago in Finland. Led by Aalto University, the consortium seeks to strengthen collaboration and Finland’s competitiveness in battery metals-related business and research. Business Finland is funding the consortium with approximately EUR 10 million. The consortium includes 22 companies, 2 cities, 4 universities, and 2 research institutes.
Vice President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič has estimated that the value of the battery market may reach EUR 250 billion by 2025. Electrification will also create challenges relating to, for example, the adequacy of raw materials as well as recycling. These are among the areas that the Finnish BATCircle consortium will research and develop to ensure that the related business potential in Finland will be utilized as effectively as possible. Finland is an exceptional operating area in the battery metals business: a small area with rich ore reserves, several metallurgical operators, technological competence and infrastructure, significant lithium reserves, and research center and university research groups recognized by the sector. The BATCircle consortium includes Aalto University, University of Oulu, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Geological Survey of Finland, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
The Finnish industrial sector is strongly committed to the consortium, which includes an extensive array of industrial operators from the mining industry to metal refinement, recycling, technology sales and precursors. For example, Boliden Harjavalta focuses on better recovery of battery chemicals on the nickel line, whereas Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta Oy develops methods and unit processes for effective utilization of recycled metal-bearing battery waste components in the primary process. Outotec, Fortum, and Crisolteq research and develop recycling processes for electric vehicle batteries, and Finnish Minerals Group is interested in the entire metal lifecycle, all the way from mining activities to recycling.
The share of open research in the consortium amounts to approx. EUR 5 million and is carried out in four technical work entities, together with one business as well as national and EU-wide project management work entities. The studies map out primary raw materials, verify reserves bearing battery metals, and conduct geometallurgical research. The objective is to also build a national strategy for battery metals production chains.
BATCircle aims to improve the recovery of battery metals in current processes and from the current primary raw materials and process streams. Recycling is one of the project’s spearhead research areas. BATCircle will build strategies for the mechanical processing of battery waste as well as pyro- and hydrometallurgical recycling and solution purification. The research focuses particularly on the behavior of impure metals and the recovery of lower-grade metals. Active materials of batteries and their manufacturing, electrochemical behavior, and characterization are also closely tied to BATCircle’s research plan.
The project will also examine business ecosystems and the business potential arising from the creation of a new kind of ecosystem. In addition, BATCircle is actively involved in building a European-wide battery strategy within the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) plan and the European Technology Innovation Platform (ETIP), which was launched in January. Recycling-related research by these collaborative organs will be coordinated in BATCircle by Outotec and Aalto University.
The lifecycle of battery metals still has much to be improved and studied. On the European level, research on battery waste recycling remains very limited and more research on the flexible utilization of recycling raw material is needed. Integration of raw material into existing processes is also important, and this requires removing impurities and researching microelements. Collaboration on both national and international level is the key to success. Even on a European scale, BATCircle is a remarkable step towards true collaboration.
Mari Lundström, Assistant Professor, Hydrometallurgy and corrosion, PI BATCircle
Pyry Hannula, D.Sc. (Tech), Project Manager BATCircle
Pertti Kauranen, D.Sc. (Tech), Project Manager – EUBATCircle
Aalto University, School of Chemical Engineering,
Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering