School of Chemical Engineering

With rising sales of electric cars, a new company developing more efficient production of essential battery materials is raising funds to build a demonstration plant.

Based on technology developed by The University of Queensland, Pure Battery Technologies Pty Ltd is commercialising a process to extract nickel and cobalt from low grade ores more cheaply and effectively than current methods.

The technology has been licensed to Pure Battery Technologies by UniQuest, UQ’s commercialisation company.

Pure Battery Technologies Managing Director and CEO Bjorn Zikarsky said global demand for batteries was growing at about 15 per cent a year.

“This is driving up demand for both nickel and cobalt, with the demand for cobalt exceeding supply globally,” Mr Zikarsky said.

“We are using UQ’s patented acid leaching process to produce battery-ready nickel and cobalt products more easily, and at lower capital and operational expense.”

“This process also offers a higher cobalt recovery than is currently possible, is energy efficient with little solid waste or tailings, and has a very small footprint.”

Mr Zikarsky said the affordability and profitability of the electric vehicle industry had increased with game-changing advancements in battery technology.

“It’s estimated that by 2025, almost half of all new energy generation will be renewable, and demand is increasing for battery-supported clean energy such as wind and solar,” he said.

“Nickel is also used in the production of stainless steel and other metal alloys, and our process has very little environmental impact and consumes less carbon dioxide and chemicals compared to other processes.”

Following the licence agreement with UniQuest, Mr Zikarsky said the company was working to raise the investment needed to build a demonstration plant to produce up to 5000 tonnes of nickel a year.

“We are excited by the interest from industry, which we believe is driven by a real need for this technology, together with greater consumer and corporate environmental consciousness.

“We are pursuing a diversified corporate strategy - in addition to developing our own battery material products, we aim to partner with other producers to enable them to benefit from this technology in other applications.”

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said the technology was the result of eight years of research and development by UQ hydrometallurgists Dr James Vaughan and Dr Will Hawker.

“We have been working with Dr Vaughan and Dr Hawker since 2011 to commercialise this technology and to help them carry out extensive testing with major nickel laterite producers,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to Pure Battery Technologies taking the technology to market.”

Media: UniQuest, Nicole Cowan, n.cowan@uniquest.com.au,+61 409 767 199.