I am working on lithium battery recycling modelling. Long story short after certain processes I get as output alloys with different compositions of Cobalt, Nickel and Copper. An example of an alloy is given below:

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I would like to further purify these metals. I wonder what steps I should check, what reactions, processes. As I have no idea about metallurgy, even key words for searching or basic comments/hints would be helpful. I am mostly interested in energy and reagents consumption for such purification and estimates would do the job just fine.

Thank you for your time.

  • $\begingroup$ What are the melting points? Are there any catalysts that may help? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ 1357.77K, 1728 K and 1768 K for Cu, Ni and Co respectively. I guess then Cu can be extracted easily just by metling it? Is there a name for such a process of separating part of an alloy (like how for oil products its called distillation )? $\endgroup$
    – NUKE1989
    Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 11:33

2 Answers 2


Step one ; check net for a superalloy recycler ( not a general metal recycler). Step two , ask if they could do it, quantity necessary and cost for them to do it. Long ago "Specialloy" in Chicago would do this; I don't know if they are still in business. Anecdote: Cobalt comes from German word for gremlin, because Cobalt was a gremlin when trying to separate it from nickel.

  • $\begingroup$ Another anecdote - the word nickle comes from Old Nick's copper, Nick being a nickname for the Devil because it was devil to deal with when first encountered. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Fred, The way I remember it is, the old timer German miners were digging for copper and they would get this pain in the neck other metal instead. They called it "Kupfernickel" for Kupfer (Copper) Nickel (Demon or Devil). Nickel is neat stuff, if for no reason other than what a pain it is to work with. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 20 at 2:19

Metallurgy is vast and complex field covering extraction of minerals from mine site ore (primary metallurgy) to smelting (secondary metallurgy) and refining (tertiary metallurgy).

If the source of your material was a mine site ore the likely process would including: crushing, grinding and froth flotation. If possible the product from flotation would be separate piles of concentrate, one for each metal/mineral. These would then be dried for transportation and further processing elsewhere - usually a smelter.

If you are at a primary metallurgy stage of processing and you are contemplating using froth flotation as separation method you will need to known about frothers and collector. Some of the main collectors are xanthates. Particular xanthates attach themselves to particular minerals to make them hydrophobic so that when air is bubbled into the container the free end of the xanthate attaches itself to the air bubbles and rises to the surface so the mineral can be skimmed off. Frothers just assist in the creation of air bubbles.

If the product streams from flotation couldn't produce separate concentrate product then a combined product would be produced. This is sometimes referred to as a dirty concentrate because it has more than one metal of interest in it. Only particular smelters can handle "dirty" concentrates. From what I recall smelters using the Imperial Smelting Process (ISP), developed by a UK company decades ago, hence "Imperial", can hand "dirty" concentrates of particular metals.

The other thing that can complicate which smelting technology can be used is the grain size of the mineral. The smaller the size, the more difficult it can be to treat. Grain size will also affect whether a concentrate is clean or dirty.

When considering crushing and grinding requirements you'll need to determine the Work Bond Index.

With crushing there are a number of different types of crushers: jaw, cone and rolls crushers are ones that come to mind. There are also hammer crushers for clay materials. With grinding the usual mills are ball mills and rod mills. Mostly likely, not applicable in your situation because you are not dealing with minerals and rock, but semi autogeneous grinding (SAG) mills use the rocks themselves to assist with grinding each other.


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