April 28, 2023: Since the introduction of BCI’s Innovation Award in 2016, the winners of the new standard for creative battery excellence have come from a wide selection of industry participants.
If honourable mentions are included, most of the acclaim has gone to those increasing the performance side of batteries — think additives, separators, bipolar batteries and new manufacturing techniques.
This year’s award was won by Gopher Resource at a different end of the battery life-cycle — dealing with slag.
Lead batteries may be the most recycled item on the planet, but the residue after being put through the furnace is toxic with a high lead content and traces, among other things, of antimony, arsenic, bismuth and cadmium. This slag perforce has to go into landfill.
Gopher Resource has developed a Slag Cleaning and Recovery of Useful Metals (SCRUM) Process that it says can reduce its solid waste footprint by 99%.
The patent-pending process takes end slags that are typically landfilled as waste and economically recovers the tin and lead for reuse in the lead battery supply chain.
Each year, the lead battery industry globally disposes of end slags that have about 100,000 tonnes of lead, and 30,000 tonnes of tin are lost every year. This tin loss is equivalent to three quarters of US domestic tin consumption.
This SCRUM Process Slag is a value-added product that avoids landfill for reuse in building construction and roadway aggregate industry sectors.
“What Gopher has done is taken established fuming technology and adapted it for secondary slag,” says Mark Stevenson, a veteran battery metallurgist. “It’s great to see more advances in secondary lead processing. It’s a very worthy winner.”
The SCRUM process uses furnace fuming technology to separate the tin and lead into a concentrated fume form with very high selectivity and efficiency, leaving behind a “cleaned” bulk iron sodium-silicate “SCRUM Slag”.
Previous fuming efforts have not been feasible due to poor selectivity and high partitioning of bulk slag components, in particular sodium, into the fume.
“Our process leaves greater than 70% of the sodium in the slag, and recovers 99.9% of both tin and lead in the fume,” said Joe Grogan, chief technology officer for Gopher Resource after receiving the award.
This tin and lead concentrated fume can be combined with other by-products for refining into lead, and LME tin. The ability to recover these metals from lead battery recycling slag in a safe, economically feasible way is an industry first.
“Waste minimization is a key goal of ours in developing this process. To reach that goal our SCRUM Slag has trace ppm levels of RCRA elements enabling its use in a variety of value-added applications.”
Gopher Resource has supported Slag Cleaning and Recovery of Useful Metals (SCRUM) process development efforts for over five years with a large financial commitment as well as that of research time.
In addition to Gopher Resource, this year there were four other Innovation Award contenders: Ace Green Recycling, Daramic, STC and Water Gremlin.
Photo: Roger Miksad and Chris Pruitt flank the Gopher Resource winners, with CTO Joe Guigan center.