Aurelius wins grant to commercialize clean lead battery recycling

Aurelius Environmental and Aurelius Technologies, both part of Aurelius Holdings, have partnered the University of Cambridge to commercialize Fenixpb — a recycling technology that received a grant of more than €1.3 million ($1.5 million) from the European Commission, Aurelius Technologies told BESB on August 30.

Aurelius Environmental is a waste management company and Aurelius Technologies is a technology transfer company.

The grant to develop the technology, which the company claims produces lead oxide that outperforms that from virgin lead, came from the EC’s Horizon 2020 Future and Emerging Technologies budget for 2016-17.

Athan Fox, technology director at Aurelius Technologies, says its patented process produces lead oxide directly from waste lead oxide paste, unlike recycling systems on the market, which produce lead metal that is then oxidized separately to afford lead oxide.

“We enable a direct route to lead oxide, reducing the cost of the overall process substantially. Our lead oxide is also of a unique, nano-crystalline morphology, which means that we can produce batteries that outperform (in terms of energy density and life) current lead-acid batteries,” Fox told BESB.

“This would be a significant breakthrough in the field, because it means the recycled product is potentially superior to the primary product produced from virgin lead.”

Invented at the University of Cambridge by Vasant Kumar, the technology is licensed to Aurelius. Kumar works as a consultant for Aurelius to improve the core technology.

Fox said the goals in developing the technology were in line with other recyclers — a clean, green system with low emissions and zero noxious gases. But he said the technology was vastly different.

“We do not use electrolysis,” he said. “Instead, our process is carried out in water – at room temperature. This sees the recycling of lead paste via a lower energy process. Importantly, under the calcination (thermal treatment process) stage — where our intermediate burns under controlled conditions — we actually release energy. This energy, which is more than 400mWh per 1,000 tonnes processed, can be captured and used to subsidize electricity.”

Fox said the technology is patented in China, the US, Russia and India, and the grant would see it deployed in Europe.

“We are due to enter the market through a number of different set-ups, each adapted to the territory or region where it is due for deployment. The goal is to significantly reduce our global reliance on smelting,” he said.

Fox said the company had built a pilot plant and was now developing larger scale commercial systems.

One aspect of the Fenixpb technology is its suitability for small-scale recycling.

“We are looking into an arrangement of positioning small, for example around 1,000 tonne capacity, plants in strategic locations,” he said.

“This would enable small-scale recycling at source. One of the biggest issues with informal recycling is that the recyclers open the batteries — it is important to offer these recyclers a system where it would be more economically advantageous to sell the batteries to a strategically positioned plant owner, as opposed to dismantling the battery for informal recycling.”