Selective bacterial separation of critical metals a sustainable method for recycling lithium ion batteries

18 February 2022, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The large scale recycling of lithium ion batteries (LIBs) is essential to satisfy global demands for the raw materials required to implement this technology as part of a clean energy strategy. However, despite what is rapidly becoming a critical need, an efficient and sustainable recycling process for LIBs has yet to be developed. Biological reactions occur with great selectivity under mild conditions, offering new avenues for the implementation of more environmentally sustainable processes. Here, we demonstrate a sequential process employing two bacterial species to recover Mn, Co and Ni, from vehicular LIBs through the biosynthesis of metallic nanoparticles, whilst Li remains within the leachate. We investigated bio-selectivity between Co and Ni using proteomics, confirming control of the biological response. Our approach determines the principles and first steps of a practical bio-separation and recovery system, underlining the relevance of harnessing biological specificity for recycling and up-cycling critical materials


Spent lithium-ion battery (LIB)
green technology
cobalt nanoparticles
metal separation
circular economy
biological metal recycling

Supplementary materials

Electronic Supplementary Information
This PDF file includes: Figs. S1 to S6 Supplementary Tables S1 to S5 Other Supplementary Data for this manuscript include the following: Proteomics data can be accessed at

Supplementary weblinks


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