Two KU Leuven researchers receive ERC Advanced Grant

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded its Advanced Grants for ground-breaking research. Six KU Leuven researchers are among this year’s recipients: Koen Binnemans, and Giovanni Lapenta.

ERC Advanced Grants are awarded to established researchers with a considerable academic track record. The grants are awarded for a five-year period and are usually worth up to €2.5 million.

Koen Binnemans: circular hydrometallurgy for energy-transition metals (CIRMET)

© Elisabeth De Decker

Full professor at the Faculty of Science, Department of Chemistry; member of the KU Leuven Institute for Sustainable Metals and Minerals (SIM²)

Without metals there is no transition to a green economy. The batteries needed for green mobility and energy storage, for instance, require considerable amounts of high-purity metals such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, and copper. To become less dependent on countries like China and Russia, Europe wants to take control of the production and purification of these metals.

Paradoxically, however, the metals we need to transition towards green energy and mobility are not produced sustainably. The solution to this problem is a shift from linear to circular hydrometallurgy, which allows us to extract and refine metals with minimal waste production and with full recycling of reagents.

The CIRMET project will develop circular hydrometallurgical processes by contributing to our understanding at the molecular level of the reactions involved and by cleverly manipulating chemical equilibria. With this project, we aim to make a big leap towards greener production methods for crucial energy-transition metals. In the longer term, our insights could also be used to recycle used batteries in a more environmentally friendly way.

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