Recovery of metals from spent lithium-ion batteries with organic acids as leaching reagents and environmental assessment

Li Li, Jennifer B. Dunn, Xiao Xiao Zhang, Linda Gaines, Ren Jie Chen, Feng Wu*, Khalil Amine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

380 Scopus citations


A leaching process for the recovery of cobalt and lithium from spent lithium-ion batteries (LIB) is developed in this work. Three different organic acids, namely citric acid, malic acid and aspartic acid, are used as leaching reagents in the presence of hydrogen peroxide. The cathode active materials before and after acid leaching are characterized by X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. Recovery of cobalt and lithium is optimized by varying the leachant and H2O2 concentrations, the solid-to-liquid ratio, and the reaction temperature and duration. Whereas leaching with citric and malic acids recovered in excess of 90% of cobalt and lithium, leaching with aspartic acid recovered significantly less of these metals. The leaching mechanism likely begins with the dissolution of the active material (LiCoO2) in the presence of H2O2 followed by chelation of Co(II) and Li with citrate, malate or aspartate. An environmental analysis of the process indicates that it may be less energy and greenhouse gas intensive to recover Co from spent LIBs than to produce virgin cobalt oxide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-189
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Power Sources
StatePublished - 2013


  • Acid leaching
  • Cathode active materials
  • Environmental assessment
  • Organic acids
  • Spent lithium-ion batteries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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