Aqua Metals has produced recycled lead at commercial scale using its water-based technology — an industry first that Aqua Metals CEO Stephen R. Clarke says has “the potential to revolutionize lead recycling and make lead-acid batteries the only truly sustainable battery technology.”
The company produced the lead at its $30 million AquaRefinery in McCarran, Nevada. Instead of smelting, the most common way to recycle lead, AquaRefining uses an electrochemical process. The room temperature, water-based recycling method produces ingots of ultrapure lead. Because it uses a water-based process, it eliminates virtually all of the toxic waste issues generated by smelting and is safe for the environment, the company says.
Aqua Metals says it has verified that the lead produced in the AquaRefining module (pictured) is over 99.99 percent pure. The company will send its initial production samples to several US battery manufacturing companies, which collectively represent over 50 percent of US battery production, to allow them to conduct their own analysis.
Clarke said the production of lead with a commercial-scale AquaRefining module is “the most critical” piece of the AquaRefinery’s commissioning process. He added that the company plans to integrate the front-end battery-breaking portion of the facility in the weeks ahead.
The company manufactures AquaRefining modules at its headquarters in Alameda, California. It has built and delivered five modules to its Nevada AquaRefinery thus far and plans to install and commission a total of 16 modules for initial production capacity of 80 metric tons of lead per day.
Aqua Metals expects that the Nevada AquaRefinery will reach its initial production capacity within the coming months.
Earlier this year Aqua Metals signed an agreement with Interstate Batteries that will see the automotive battery distributor send more than 1 million automotive and other lead-acid batteries to be recycled at Aqua Metals’ AquaRefineries. Interstate Batteries also invested about $10 million into Aqua Metals.
Aqua Metals also has a strategic partnership with Battery Systems International and says it is in discussions with “nearly every major US based battery manufacturer and recycler, as well as data center operators and household Internet brands (which use lead-acid batteries for backup power).”