LiCoBat is a cutting-edge initiative aimed at the reverse logistics and recycling of Li-ion batteries, with the building of a pre-industrial scale pilot-plant designed for the recovery and safe disposal of Lithium (Li) and Cobalt (Co) elements.
This project is born out of a patent developed at the University of Rome – La Sapienza – by the EcoRecycling spinoff company, and from the technological cooperation between Brazil and Italy. This action is part of the Program for Research and Innovation in Raw Materials for the Promotion of the Circular Economy – ERA-MIN 2 (2016-2022), a global pan-European network represented in Brazil by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and by Finep, and in Italy by Regione Calabria.
As important as the development of the industrial prototype is the project goal, which is to carry out a mapping of the disposal of Li-ion batteries, as well as of the path such batteries follow until reaching recycling facilities – mainly in Brazil, due to its extensive territory. The objective is to learn the present reverse logistics limitations, and also to identify the actions required to optimize the feeding of a future industrial plant, both in Brazil and in Italy.
In Italy, the LiCoBat project has as its agent the Ecosistem company, located in the Calabria region, while in Brazil the agents are the CTI – Information Technology Center Renato Archer and Biosys Waste Management.
Stop for a second and look around. How many electronic devices are there around you? Smartphones, laptops, tablets… There is a high probability all of them are powered by lithium-ion batteries.
Li-ion batteries are a fundamental component of modern life, and demand for such batteries worldwide has been presenting an exponential growth, caused by the increasing consumption of electronic devices. However, while electronic devices improve our everyday life, they also contain raw materials that are extracted from nature and whose reserves are limited, if not close to exhaustion. Furthermore, disposed electronic devices may produce environmental harm if said disposal is not properly carried out.
Some important factors for the recovery of Li-ion batteries materials are the:
– Reduction of the environmental impact in the conventional mining operations for the extraction of primary raw-materials;
– Reduction of the environmental impact caused by the incorrect disposal of electro-electronic devices;
– Materials obtained from recycling operations have lower cost (both financial and environmental) than their counterparts extracted from nature;
– Creation of jobs and generation of income in the reversed logistics processes of electro-electronic devices;
Lithium and Cobalt which are recovered through the LiCoBat project will be able to be used not only in the manufacture of new batteries for electronic and industrial equipment, but also of heat-resistant glass and ceramic components, batteries for electric vehicles, industrial lubricant mass, and even in the treatment of bipolar and depression disorders.
If we take only smart phones as an example, Brazil sold a total of 48.7 million new devices in the year of 2020 alone, according to the IDC Brasil institute. In Brazil, only 1% of cell phone batteries is estimated to go through a controlled disposal process.
The remaining waste is disposed of in regular waste containers, resulting in hazards to the public health by means of environmental contamination. And let’s not forget the possibility of fires, since Li-ion batteries are a waste that might spontaneously ignite when exposed to the air, thus placing trash pickers and nearby communities at a great risk.
More than 25,700 tons of batteries were introduced in the Italian market in 2019; in the same year, the reversed logistics chain of small electronic devices – organized by the ‘Centro Di Coordinamento Nazionale Pile e Accumulatori’ – was able to collect approximately 11,000 tons of batteries, with 25% of those (more than 2,500 tons) being Li-ion batteries.
A company located in the city of Lamezia Terme, Italy. Within the LiCoBat project, Ecosistem is responsible for the data collection in the European and Italian markets, highlighting the occasionally critical elements of the Li-ion batteries reverse chain, aiming at the elaboration of an effective model for the line feeding of recycling centers. The facilities in Lamezia Terme will house the pilot plant for the ‘deenergization’ of batteries, as well as for the mechanical pre-treatment and separation of metals and Li- and Co-rich electrodic powder.
Within the LiCoBat project, the CTI - Information Technology Center Renato Archer acts for the development of hydrometallurgical processes and the study of reverse logistics, as well as for the international coordination of the Project, together with the ERAMIN Program. The CTI is a research and development branch of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI), focused on providing solutions in IT. In order to fulfill its mission, CTI combines competences in the qualification of products and processes; prototype engineering, social-economical models, environment, infrastructure and Internet applications.
Company established in the city of São Sebastião do Caí, Brazil. Within the scope of the Licobat project, Biosys has the following responsibilities: Lithium-Ion battery Reverse Logistics, performed in close cooperation with CTI Renato Archer, surveying all aspects related to the logistics of this waste in Brazil; the Industrial Prototype of Brazil,operating in harmony with the company Ecosistem from Italy, through the engineering and construction of a plant to be installed in its headquarters, and also the exploration of technologies developed in both prototypes, as well as possible patents, thus generating a permanent enterprise with great socio-environmental benefits.
ERA-MIN – An innovative and flexible global pan-European network of research funds, supported by the European Commission (EU Horizon-2020), with the goal of supporting the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials Among the ERA-MIN program is the ERA-MIN 2, Program for Research and Innovation in Raw Materials for the Promotion of the Circular Economy, a program that supports LICOBAT, with shared execution between Italy and Brazil. The ERA-MIN 2 supports the EU Raw Materials Initiative and the advances in development of raw materials production sectors. It also supports the European Union transition to a Circular Economy. The program key objectives are to support and promote the cooperation in research and innovation both in Europe and worldwide; to reduce the fragmentation of funds directed to research and innovation; to provide a support network and pan European financial resources in order to improve synergy, coordination and collaboration between its participants; and to improve the efficiency and the impact of human and financial investments in research and innovation activities in the area of raw materials. A total of 21 financing organizations from 11 countries of the European Union are members of this consortium, as well as two European regions and four non-EU member countries, amongst them Brazil.
Finep – Financer of Studies and Projects, a public company attached to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, which has as its primary objective the promotion of economical and social development in Brazil by means of public incentives to science, technology and innovation initiatives in companies, universities, technological institutes and other public or private institutions. Acting throughout the entire innovation chain, with focus on strategic, structuring and impact actions for the sustainable development of Brazil, Finep participates in the ERA-MIN2 consortium, associated to 24 other international financing organizations for research, development and innovation in the area of raw materials, focusing on circular economy.
The mission of the MCTI – Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is to produce knowledge, to generate wealth to Brazil, and to improve Brazilians’ quality of life. The MCTI operates supporting policies and innovative solutions that can be used in many different areas, such as environment, agriculture, healthcare, industry, and energy, to bring about benefits for the country as a whole. In order to develop its activities, the Ministry also has research units, related parties and social organizations, with the goal of ensuring and promoting advances in science, technology, innovation and communications, aiming at the sustainable development and improvements in the quality of life of Brazilian society.
The Regione Calábria is an autonomous region in Italy that adopts the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. The region is comprised by communities in cities and provincial territories of Calábria, and it has the city of Catanzaro as its capital, where the Regional Council President and the Executive branch are located. The Regione Calabria supports the ERA-MIN 2 consortium, investing 500 thousand Euros in this initiative, participating alongside the 23 other pan-European institutions with the aim to improve the competitiveness of the region’s companies and to encourage the adoption of sustainable development strategies.
Graduated in Electrical Engineering at UFRGS (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul State) in 1972, Mario Sebben is the founder and President of the Datasys Group, presently comprised by BIOSYS and STARH companies. An entrepreneur with great experience in the management and marketing of ICT companies, Mr. Sebben has also worked as President of SEPRORGS (Union of Informatics Companies of Rio Grande do Sul State) and of ASSESPRO (Association of Brazilian Companies of ICT, Software and Internet) in the Rio Grande do Sul State region. Mr. Sebben is presently a member in the Advisory Council of FEDERASUL (Federation of Commercial and Services Associations).
Nowadays Mr. Sebben leads INOVABIO - a spinoff company of BIOSYS - which acts on many fronts in the research and development of environmental innovation. The LiCoBat Project is one of these initiatives.
With a degree in Mechanical Designs from UNESP Technology Faculty in 1973 and one in Business Administration from Paulo Eiró Faculty in 1977, Norberto Gaviolle has participated in the development on many projects in the industrial, mechanical, chemical, and mining areas, among others. A founding partner of Apliquim Brasil Recicle Ltda. and later a technical advisor for Global Coatings Ltda., Mr. Gaviolle has received many awards, such as the 1st Prize in Environmental Conservation of Gazeta Mercantil newspaper (1992), and the Thomas Kuhn Hope for the future for Sustainability 2001 Award, grated by the International Academy of Science and by IUAPPA – International Union of Associations for the Prevention of Air Pollution and Environmental Protection.
Mr. Gaviolle participates in the LiCoBat Project as a consultant on operational processes and systems, implementation of industrial processes, and market surveys and prospects.
An associated researcher of CTI Renato Archer and expert on Diversity and Inclusion in the corporate environment and public management, Mrs. Vietro is presently going through her Doctorate in e-Planning at the University of Lisboa FA (Portugal).
Mrs. Vietro adds her experience in managing Living Lab and Urban Sustainability initiatives to the social innovation, co-creation and public participation processes, thus contributing for the transition to sustainability in face of the new political-institutional and economical-financial contexts drawn by the premises of the UN Sustainable Development Objectives. In the LiCoBat Project, Mrs. Vietro acts as a researcher of parameters for the reverse logistics of Li-ion batteries.
Graduated in Engineering for the Environment and Territory with a specialization in Geo-Resources at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, Leandro Mini has experience in the design of processes and mining plants for the extraction of metals.
Entrepreneur and business administrator, since 2006 Mr. Mini has been working in the renewable energy sector and in applied research for the enhancement of secondary raw materials.
Founding partner of the innovative start-up Hydra and co-owner of a patent for a pyro-gasification process, Mr. Mini followed the design and construction of pilot plants in European projects, including LiCoBat.
Graduated in Chemistry with Environmental Specialization by the "Júlio de Mesquita Filho" São Paulo State University UNESP. Mrs. Padoan also holds a Masters Degree in Chemistry by UNESP, where she developed a study in the Aquatic Ecotoxicology and Environmental Monitoring, improving her skills in the quantification of metals with different techniques. A PhD in Chemical Engineering by Sapienza - Università di Roma, Italy, where she had the opportunity to collaborate in two different LIFE projects of the European Union for the incentive of conservation of environmental and nature. Mrs. Padoan has experience in the optimization of recycling processes and recovery of secondary raw materials originated from technological waste (WEEE). Mrs. Padoan is a research scientist in the LiCoBat Project, working for the recovery of metals and other materials from wasted Lithium Ion batteries.
Graduated with honors in Engineering for the Environment and Territory at ‘UNICAL’ di Cosenza, in 2020 Mr. Emanuele began his experience in the field of waste management by joining the Ecosistem team. Mr. Emanuele has held numerous technical management positions in platforms for the chemical-physical treatment of special waste and for the production of EoW, as well as an urban wastewater treatment plant for a population of 120,000 inhabitants.
Mr. Emanuele is currently the director of the biological thermo-mechanical plant for municipal waste (cd TMB) of the Calabria Center system. He is also an ADR consultant and technical manager for the waste transport and brokerage for more than 20 companies.
Responsible for the Licobar Project in Ecosistem, Mr. Emanuele coordinates the planning and operational activities.
Bachelor in Chemistry (1981) and Master in Mechanical Engineering by the Campinas State University (2000). Mr. Da Silva is the Senior Technologist at the Renato Archer Information Technology Center (CTI). Since 1990, Mr. Da Silva has been coordinating projects in Research, Development and Innovation aimed at reducing the environmental impact of electro-electronical products. He was the International Coordinator of the CYTED TROPICORR Project (1998 / 2002), which involved institutions from eight Iberian-American countries, and coordinated the REMATRONIC Project (Funtec / BNDES). Mr. Da Silva is presently the International Coordinator of the LiCoBat Project within the ERAMIN 2 European Program. He is also a collaborator in the environmental and sustainability areas for the Brazilian Association of Technical Standards (ABNT) and for the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). In the ABNT, Mr. Da Silva was the President of the Study Commission CE 111 (CB 03), in the elaboration of the ABNT Standard NBR 16156.
Degree in industrial chemistry from the University "La Sapienza" from Rome and holds a PhD in Industrial Chemical Processes.
She has worked as a researcher at the University "La Sapienza" in Rome and since 2017 works for Eco Recycling of which he is also CEO. Emanuela manages
several European Eco Recycling research and development projects in the the WEEE and battery recycling sector. She is co-author of several patents and Scientific publications.
Graduated in industrial chemistry from the University "La Sapienza"
of Rome with the thesis "Recovery of polymers and metals with high added value
from end-of-life photovoltaic panels." Since 2019, he has worked at the company
Eco Recycling, mainly dealing with the development of processes in the
hydrometallurgy sector, with a particular focus on the recovery of metals from
batteries and other electro-electronic equipment waste. Conduct surveys
in favor of Eco Recycling in the Sapienza laboratory of "Theory of
Development of Chemical Processes".
The basis of the circular economy is the rational use of material, promoting the reuse of raw materials in a cyclic chain; thus reducing the strain on the environment caused by the extraction of natural resources.
The LiCoBat Project has as its mission to significantly contribute in the conduction of Lithium Ion batteries life cycle to the circular economy, focusing on the recovery of Lithium, Cobalt and other critical materials, after these batteries have reached the end of their service life.
Aiming at demonstrating the technical and economical feasibility of the reuse of materials from disposed Li-Ion batteries, the LiCoBat Project is structured to achieve two main objectives:
In order to achieve this objective, the LiCoBat Project uses a hydrometallurgical process developed by the Eco Recycling company (a spin off from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”), object for the European patent EP2450991, which, when compared to the presented state-of-the-art alternatives, allows for the separate recovery of Lithium, Cobalt, Manganese, in addition to the base metals.
The Eco Recycling process finds itself in a laboratory scale, and still poses technological challenges for its economical and industrial viability. The main challenges are related to the optimization of hydrometallurgical processes, which are required for scaling the process up to an industrial level, and to the development of a safe method that allows for obtaining the internal mass of batteries, when treated in large quantities.
As part of the LiCoBat Project, the solutions found for these challenges will be demonstrated through the construction and operation of a pilot plant for the treatment of up to 100 kg/day of batteries.
When creating an economically-feasible recovery of disposed Li-Ion batteries is concerned, the efficiency at which reverse logistics provides these batteries for the recycling unit is a critical component, as well as the efficiency of the process used for materials extraction.
Nowadays the reverse chain of Li-Ion batteries presents a low efficiency, especially in Brazil, where only 3% of disposed batteries are correctly sent for recycling. Aiming at maximizing the number of batteries which are made available for recycling at the end of their service life, as part of an optimal cost-benefit ratio, the LiCoBat Project has as a goal to map and detail the processes of reverse logistics of Li-Ion batteries presently used in Brazil and in Europe, aiming at identifying the opportunities for improvement that allow for an optimization of this logistics.
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