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Recycling of batteries and responsible raw materials are Finland's asset - A major project enhanced cooperation within the battery sector

The two-year BATCircle consortium led by Aalto University has produced a lot of new research on battery recycling and raw materials and strengthened the cooperation within the sector
Recycled battery metal in a bowl
Image: Valeria Azovskaya / Aalto University

Battery technologies play a key role in solutions for the mitigation of climate change, such as the electrification of transport and renewable energy storage. To meet the growing need for batteries in a sustainable way, the production and recycling of metals used in their manufacture must be enhanced.

The two-year project Finland-based Circular Ecosystem of Battery Metals (BATCircle), aimed at strengthening Finland's position in the circular economy of batteries, is coming to an end at the end of April. The consortium led by Aalto University involves 23 companies, four universities, two research institutes and two cities.

‘We have reached a number of promising results for improving the efficiency of the refining processes and recycling of lithium-ion battery raw materials. The results show that larger amounts and a wider range of battery materials can be recovered from batteries while reducing the environmental footprint of the various processes,’ says Pyry Hannula, Project Manager of the BATCircle project.

The project has also done extensive exploration for potential battery mineral deposits in the Finnish bedrock and studied the opportunities for sourcing them. In addition, the production processes of battery materials have been improved and the properties of battery active materials have been developed using recycled raw materials.

So far, the project has led to the publication of 24 peer-reviewed articles, 3 doctoral dissertations, 4 reports, 21 master's theses and 5 bachelor's theses. Furthermore, there are almost 30 articles more being drafted for peer review.

Finland has good starting points for the development of the European battery industry

Finland has everything needed for becoming a major actor in the battery sector, such as rich ore reserves, technological and recycling expertise and infrastructure, as well as research competence of high international level.

‘The wide scope of BATCircle research is unique even on European scale. We have the opportunity to promote research throughout the battery metal value chain, as well as strengthen the cooperation, and develop business models and circular economy in the battery industry,’ says Mari Lundström, Assistant Professor at Aalto University.

More than 80 per cent of the world’s batteries are currently manufactured in Asia. The European Union aims to create a competitive and sustainable battery industry in Europe that would meet the growing need for batteries. It has been predicted that the total value of the European battery market will reach EUR 250 billion by 2025.

The BATCircle project is also strongly involved in the European battery sector cooperation – for example, Mari Lundström leads a working group in the Batteries Europe network, which wrote a roadmap on the availability and recycling of battery raw materials, published recently.

‘National activities are an important part of the entire picture. Finland has strong research in the raw materials and processing side,’ said Michael Lippert, Chair of Batteries Europe, at the final seminar of the BATCircle project. According to Lippert, the goal is that the work carried out at the EU level and the national research efforts complement each other.

BATCircle's work is also linked to Finland's own National Battery Strategy, which was completed in 2020. Sustainable battery minerals production and refining, recycling competence and expertise in electrification and digitalisation are the cornerstones Finland will leverage in its pursuit of a pioneering position in the battery industry.

Follow-up project planned

Business Finland funded the BATCircle project by covering the share of EUR 10 million of the total budget of approximately EUR 22 million. The project is directly linked to Business Finland's Batteries from Finland program, which supports the development of a Finnish battery industry ecosystem and connecting it to international networks.

The consortium has submitted a three-year BATCircle 2.0 project application to Business Finland. The members include a large share of the actors involved in the first project, as well as some new partners.

‘We aim to continue this important work to keep Finland at the top of Europe's battery research and to ensure that the cooperation between the industry and research institutes supports Finland's efforts to achieve carbon neutrality and create a strong domestic battery industry,’ says Mari Lundström.

Consortium

Research organizations
Aalto University | University of Eastern Finland | LUT University | University of Oulu
Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) | VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Large companies 
Boliden | Elementis | Fortum | Metso Outotec
Nornickel Harjavalta | Terrafame | Umicore Finland

Small and medium-size enterprises 
AkkuSer | FENNOSCANDIAN Resources | FinnCobalt Oy
Finnish Minerals Group | IMA Sensor Solutions | Keliber
Latitude 66 | Magsort | Mawson | Mine On-Line Service
Suhanko - Arctic Platinum | Teraloop | Tracegrow

Municipalities
Town of Harjavalta | City of Pori

Advisory board
Akkukierrätys Pb | Association of Finnish Steel and Metal Producers | BASF
CLIC Innovation | EIT InnoEnergy | EIT RawMaterials | Hitachi Hightech Europe
Kemira | Kuusakoski Recycling | National Emergency Supply Agency | Nikkelverk
Northvolt | Sitra | Valmet Automotive | Varta Microbattery | Yrityssalo

More information

BATCircle consortium

BATCircle aims at improving the manufacturing processes of battery chemicals and the mining and metals industries and to increase the recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

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Image from remote site: batcircle.aalto.fi
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