An innovative, low-impact recycling process for lithium-ion batteries

Closing the loop on lithium-ion batteries

One of four winners of the 2020 Ecosurety Exploration Fund, the CellMine project sought to do what had so far proved impossible - to selectively recover rare earth metals used in lithium-ion batteries through an environmentally friendly, efficient and low-cost process. Lithium-ion battery technology is likely to be the keystone in moving our society to a greener, more sustainable future, but without effective recycling technology in place we are fast approaching a significant problem, due to the scarcity of raw materials and destructive mining techniques. CellMine is fast proving to be the Holy Grail solution.

The hunger for rare earth metals

The market for lithium-ion batteries is set to grow to $1 trillion by 2026, driven by a regulatory push for more electric vehicles, a growth in popularity for military and aerospace applications and the need for more powerful batteries. With this comes a greater need for the rare earth metals used to make them, such as lithium, cobalt and manganese. Increasingly hard to find, these require intensive mining to extract them, often in the poorest and most eco-diverse countries.

electric cars

A problem that cannot be ignored

The current world supply of rare earth metals is not sufficient to deliver the change from the internal combustion engine, let alone the growth in consumer products that require ever-more portable and powerful batteries.

Leading scientists at the Natural History Museum recently calculated that meeting only the UK's targets for electric cars by 2050 would require nearly twice the world's current output of cobalt and a 650% increase in lithium output by 2027.

With no efficient method to recycle all the metals in lithium-ion batteries, most are lost at end of life.


Irreversible destruction of our environment

To meet future demand, mining companies are now investigating deep-sea strip-mining as the next source for raw materials.

Meanwhile, existing solutions to recover rare earth metals from waste batteries use high temperature separation or acid extraction - environmentally unfriendly and hazardous processes yielding poor recovery rates.

A viable, environmentally friendly and commercial solution to recover and reuse these rare earth metals must be found soon to meet future demand and to help limit further irreversible damage to our environment. 

The Ocean



CellMine - the innovative solution

Using a novel, environmentally friendly solvent to selectively recover rare earth metals from lithium-ion batteries, the CellMine process is low energy, low cost and sustainable. What's more, it is able to recover the valuable metals at higher yields than the current state of art, in a suitable form and purity that makes them ready for reuse in new battery cells.

A disruptive recycling technology

The CellMine process is a disruptive technology in battery recycling, able to selectively target and recover the vast majority of high-value and high-volume metals within a lithium-ion cell, including cobalt, lithium and manganese.

The process is environmentally friendly, low-impact and low cost, ultimately helping to enable the future of lithium-ion battery manufacture in the UK. 

battery manufacture

£0.5m Innovate UK next-stage funding

On completion of the initial proof-of-concept project funded by Ecosurety in 2021, CellMine secured £0.5m funding from Innovate UK to expand the research for a further 18 months, to explore the commercial application of the process and scale it from the laboratory to a pilot plant.

Partners working with Impact Solutions on the next stage of the project include St Andrews University, a world leader in cathode research, who will test and validate the recyclate resulting from the CellMine process for use in new real-world batteries. Ecosurety is also a project partner who will assist in developing supply chain and feedstock relationships.




“The Ecosurety Exploration Fund has allowed us to develop CellMine from very early, theoretical research into a system that has proven lithium batteries can be recycled in a safe, low cost, environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. Simply put, without this critical funding we would have been unable to progress the technology to the point it is today.” Simon Rathbone Development Manager, Impact Solutions

About Impact Solutions

Impact Solutions has over 25 years’ experience in the testing and development of materials used in manufacture and new technologies. As a UKAS accredited test laboratory, Impact is a market leader for testing materials and processes across a range of industries from automotive and aerospace through to packaging and recycling. Impact Solutions has a global client base working throughout the supply chain from material manufacturers through to products developers and manufacturers.
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Enabling tomorrow's solutions

The first stage of the CellMine project was funded by the Ecosurety Exploration Fund which is investing £1million in projects that aim to reduce the environmental impact of packaging, batteries or WEEE through innovation or research in the UK. The fund is the first such opportunity to be launched by a UK compliance scheme. It builds on Ecosurety’s experience in supporting innovative projects and new technologies across the waste and recycling sector.
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