Rock Tech Lithium to Collaborate with Fraunhofer Institute and Circulor to pursue CO2-neutral lithium

Press release /

Rock Tech Lithium announced to collaborate with the Fraunhofer UMSICHT and supply chain tracking provider Circulor. The German-Canadian company, which plans to supply lithium hydroxide to manufacturers of batteries for electric cars from 2024, recently published plans for the first European lithium hydroxide factory (“Converter”) in Brandenburg. The Converter aims to become the first in the industry to achieve CO2 neutrality and a closed material cycle for both lithium and valuable by-products.

CO2-neutral lithium
© shutterstock/Composing Fraunhofer UMSICHT
As early as 2024, Rock Tech intends to commission Europe's first lithium converter with a nameplate production capacity of 24,000 tonnes per year. This is equivalent to the volume needed to equip around 500,000 electric cars with lithium-ion batteries.

With Fraunhofer and Circulor both possessing a clear focus on sustainability and responsible sourcing, this collaboration will allow Rock Tech to make a significant contribution to a holistic view of the ecological footprint of electric cars. Perspectively, the Company also aims to recycle the lithium contained in spent batteries, closing the materials loop and securing sustainable access to the raw material. Based on the work of Fraunhofer and Circulor, Rock Tech will create a material passport for its product. In doing so, the Company is anticipating the upcoming EU Battery Regulation, which aims to ensure that batteries are sustainable throughout their life cycle.

Markus Brügmann, CEO of Rock Tech Lithium commented: “A holistic documentation of our value chain will allow us to provide information about the origin and environmental balance of our lithium hydroxide, creating a decisive added value for our customers."

Life Cycle Assessment

Fraunhofer supports Rock Tech by recording all material and energy flows and calculating the life cycle assessment of processes along the entire value chain. This starts with the raw material itself and ends with the delivery of the high-quality lithium hydroxide to customers. Based on the data obtained, Rock Tech intends to further optimize the production process already in the planning phase – to reduce energy requirements as much as possible.

According to Dr. Ilka Gehrke, head of the Environment and Resource Utilization department at Fraunhofer, "Extensive collection and analysis of their data not only allows Rock Tech to design the production of lithium hydroxide more sustainably, but also supports them in implementing subsequent process optimizations in the most energy and environmentally friendly way possible."

Fraunhofer specializes in the areas of climate-neutral energy systems, resource-efficient processes and circular products, making concrete contributions to the achievement of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Innovative technologies, products and services for the circular economy that can be implemented on an industrial scale are developed at the Oberhausen research institute. With a total of over 30,000 employees, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is the largest organization for applied research and development services in Europe.

Comprehensive Transparency

Circulor provides Rock Tech with lithium traceability from the raw material source to the lithium hydroxide plant in Germany. The Company tracks raw materials in real-time using a software solution, even when they change physical state, as it is the case with lithium. Furthermore, Circulor offers traceability of CO₂ emissions generated in the supply chain, allowing Rock Tech to analyze and manage them at every stage of the delivery process.

"We at Circulor are proud of this collaboration. It will enable Rock Tech to bring lithium to market with a clearly traceable origin and clear information on CO₂ emissions generated," said Douglas Johnson-Poensgen, CEO and founder of Circulor. "With the automotive industry already preparing for the EU Battery Directive and Battery Passport regulations, those who can demonstrate such sustainable practices have a clear advantage."

Circulor is the leading provider of sustainable supply chain traceability. The Company's customers include Volvo Cars, Polestar, Jaguar Land Rover, BHP and Boeing.

At the same time, the digitalized provision of material and energy flows is a prerequisite for the economic reprocessing of batteries. Rock Tech Lithium's goal is to become the first closed-loop supplier of lithium hydroxide. Currently, only one percent of lithium from batteries is recycled worldwide. The German-Canadian company aims to use 50 percent recycled materials from spent batteries in the production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide by 2030 at the latest.