Tech4lib – Low-energy technologies for circular economy of spent lithium-ions batteries based on enhanced microwave effects

Resp. Scientifico: Prof.ssa Elza Bontempi, [email protected]

Professore Ordinario di Fondamenti chimici delle tecnologie

Dipartimento di Ingegneria Meccanica e Industriale


Finanziato da: Fondazione Cariplo nell’ambito del Bando “Economia circolare 2022”


Inizio progetto: 1° maggio 2023 – Data fine progetto 1° luglio 2026

Capofila: Università Degli Studi Di Brescia (UNIBS)

Partner: Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale per la Scienza e Tecnologia dei Materiali (INSTM) e Scuola Superiore di Studi Universitari e di Perfezionamento Sant'Anna (SSSA)



To enable of a major shift to bring transportation and power to greenhouse gas neutrality the coupling of both sectors for the first time in history is mandatory. Indeed, batteries can enable 30% of the required reductions in carbon emissions in the transport and power sectors. However, the supply of the raw metals for batteries is precarious because of limited natural reserves of several raw materials and their local distribution. Thus, technologies that can stably secure strategic metals must be developed, as for example urban mining, which allow to recover metals from secondary sources. However, the waste recovery processes are complicated and require high resources consumption in terms of energies and chemicals necessary for metals extraction.

The Solution: In line with the European Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan, and the Industrial Strategy, the Tech4lib project aims to work for a competitive, circular, sustainable, and safe value chain for lithium-ions batteries (LIBs), by developing an innovative and sustainable technological solution finalized to establish a circular economy approach for the raw materials necessary for LIBs production. The main innovative approaches of the proposed solution are (i) the use of a new microwave technology to promote carbothermic reactions able to increase the solubility of metals, hence enabling the recovery of Li, Co, Mn, Ni, Cu with a lower energy request in comparison the conventional strategies (ii) the development of a procedure for the safe recovery of food waste (mainly fruits), to produce the organic acids able to extract metals, after microwave treatment (iii) the application of a circular methodology for process eco-design based on recursive assessment of key performance indicators on process sustainability, resulting in the identification of multi-objective optimal solutions.

The Approach: An integrated approach aiming to implement raw materials recovery from LIBs and to valorise different waste streams (as for example food waste) by their transformation into valuable products, is proposed. The Tech4lib concept is based on: (i) obtain carbothermic reaction in black mass by the application of a new recently patented technology (UNIBS), that was selected in March 2022 as one of the most promising technologies in the frame of the European competition organized by SusCritMat, a European platform promoted by EIT RawMaterials (; (ii) extract Li by using only a water solution (iii) and extract the other metals (Li, Co, Mn, Ni, Cu) by combing leachate streams obtained by other waste as for example fruit (INSTM); (iii) preparation of acid solutions starting from food waste (INSTM); (iv) recovery and stabilization of post leaching process residues, to produce materials for secondary application (UNIBS); (v) application of eco-design procedures to select the most sustainable technological parameters, essentially consisting in the definition of product and process characteristics based on integrated key performance indicators (KPIs) (INSTM) (vi) application of relevant methodologies for the sustainability assessment of proposed innovative solutions, also considering the economic and social impact assessment (STAN); (vii) communication and dissemination of results to scientific community, stakeholders, and society (UNIBS, INSTM, STAN).

All partners have a consolidated experience in facing issues related to waste valorisation and circular economy practices.

The Impact: The EU battery regulation due to come into force on 1 January 2022 is set to shake up the value chain with mandatory requirements aimed at ensuring sustainable supply chains. With approximately 800,000 tonnes of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, 190,000 tonnes of industrial batteries and 160,000 tonnes of consumer batteries entering the EU every year, these regulations will have global implications. One core principle of the regulations is recycling of lithium-ion, as an imperative part of creating a circular economy, and with the growing potential to extract raw materials from depleted batteries and reusing them. Indeed, between 2020 and 2040, the number of lithium-ion batteries ready for recycling is expected to increase 700 times. The Tech4lib project translates the EU’s sustainable development goals into innovative activities aiming to solve several problems in a single-design solution: providing an alternative route to respond to the increasing demand for raw materials for batteries and guaranteeing a second life to the corresponding waste and to other waste streams whose managing is challenging from both an economic and an environmental point of view. Therefore, the Tech4lib project completely meets some goals of the call, as it promotes (i) the design of a high efficient system for the recovery of several waste typologies, (ii) the design of new secondary raw materials, products and processes fostering a shift towards innovative and sustainable organization models, and (iii) the valorisation of waste aimed at their transformation in high added value products, including food waste materials.

The Tech4lib project results may be vital for the Lombardy battery market, where the basic materials are not available from mining, but which may be recovered from waste.

The impact of Tech4Lib is expected to be considerable also from a technological point of view: it will be the first project developing a new technology, selected by the EU Raw Material Consortium, as one of the most promising for raw materials recovery in the next future.

This technology development opens the possibility of increased energy efficiency in microwave enhanced carbothermic reductions not only for batteries recovery, but also in several other microwave chemistry processes

Costo totale del progetto: Euro 299.725,00

Contributo Cariplo ricevuto da UNIBS: Euro 157.000,00