Various metals are widely used in applications, products and processes that enable the transition to cleaner energy sources and technologies, including electric vehicles, battery storage, wind turbines, solar panels, electronics and eletrical equipment.

Swinburne is bringing together multi-disciplinary experts and researchers who are developing innovative technologies that enable the production and adoption of critical metals key to transitioning a green economy.    

We work collaboratively and globally to deliver innovative research and technology solutions using our expertise in sustainable process metallurgy, surface engineering, advanced manufacturing, energy storage management and design, mechanics and structures, and socio-techno-economics.

Our key capabilities

Sustainable extractive and process metallurgy

Development of low-carbon technologies for metal production and manufacturing
(electrification, solar, laser and plasma)

Recycling and utilisation of alternative resources

Hydrogen application in manufacturing and metallurgical processes

Energy storage and battery management and design

Mechanical evaluation of technologies in extreme applications

Life cycle and techno-economic assessments

Socio- and anthropology evaluations

Our projects

Eco-friendly process for dephosphorisation of monazite (rare earth) minerals

This project focuses on the understanding of the dephosphorisation of monazite (rare-earth phosphate) minerals to form rare earth element oxides using high temperature and low pressure aided by different reductants. Thermodynamic modelling and experimental works are carried out to identify optimum parameters. It is envisaged that phosphorus will also be recovered from the process. 

Technoeconomic of monazite (rare earth) ore processing

Processing of rare earth minerals is quite extensive and involves many steps. The recovery of some radioactive materials can improve the economics of the process. This project is looking at the details of the economics of an improved process where other valuable materials, including radioactive, are recovered. 

RE–LE alloys production through metallothermic reduction

The project focuses on the investigation of the production of rare earth (La, Sc, Ce and Y) – light metal (Al and Mg) alloys from rare earth oxides through metallothermic reduction. It emphasises the understanding of the mechanisms and identifies the key conditions for maximum conversion.

Metallothermic / carbothermic / hydrogen reduction of LCO cathode material

The cathode materials of Li-ion batteries contain valuable metals that can be recovered. This project systematically studies the recycling and recovery of Li and Co from end-of-life LCO (LiCoO2) cathode materials using hydrogen, carbon and metal as reductants. The kinetics and mechanism of reaction were investigated.

Recovery of valuable metals from end-of-life lithium-ion batteries (mixed blackmass) through smelting

Blackmass is complex materials that include C and other elements which come from the different types of batteries (LCO, LMO, NMC, LFP and NCA). This project will study the smelting behaviour of the blackmass in support of the development of a high temperature process for recycling and recovery of the multi-elements from the source.

Recovery of Zn / ZnO nanopowder and MnOx from alkaline batteries using concentrated solar thermal

In this project, Zinc / ZnO and manganese oxides are extracted from the blackmass of alkaline batteries. Controlled heating in a special gas atmosphere and special quenching techniques are used to recover high value Zn / ZnO nanopowder, while a concentrated solar thermal is used as the heating source for the process. The project focuses on process development as well as technoeconomic analysis.

Recycling and recovery of valuable metals from end-of-life NdFeB magnet

Permanent magnet NdFeB contains critical metals such as Nd, Dy and Pr. This project is developing a novel recycling process to recover these critical metals using combined pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy approaches.

Thermodynamic behaviour of Pd, Ge, Ta, Ga, Au, Ag, In and other elements during waste printed circuit board (PCB) processing

Precious and critical metals are distributed to different phases during the processing of waste PCB through copper smelting. This project investigates the distribution and partitioning ratio of the elements at conditions relevant to the black copper smelting process. Understanding this allows the optimisation of industrial processes to maximise recovery of these valuable and critical metals. 

Hydrogenation of black copper smelting for waste PCB processing (thermodynamics, technoeconomic and carbon footprint calculations)

This project investigates the mass and energy balance of waste PCB processing through black copper smelting using hydrogen as reductant and fuel source. The project also looks at the technoeconomic and carbon footprint of the process in the context of Australia and Indonesia.   

Slag foaming in non-ferrous smelting process relevant to battery recycling

Slag foaming can occur in a non-ferrous smelting process. The phenomenon is not desirable if it is not properly controlled. This project investigates the effect of endothermic and exothermic reactions on the slag foaming stabilisation and destabilisation. The project also develops a novel measurement technique for slag foaming at high temperature.

Silicon (Si) production using methane, hydrogen and hydrogen plasma

Hydrogenation of silicon production contributes to the decarbonisation of the silicon industry. In this project, low and non-carbon reductants (such as methane, hydrogen and hydrogen plasma) are investigated to produce silicon from alternative sources of SiO2. The project focuses on process development and understanding the reaction mechanism.  

Hydrogen reduction of copper (Cu) from copper oxides and Cu-containing resources

The project investigates the kinetics and reaction mechanism of hydrogen and hydrogen plasma reduction of copper from simple oxide compounds CuO / Cu2O to a mixture of multi oxides such as slags and other complex Cu-containing resources in support of decarbonisation of copper industries.  

Hydrogen reduction of lead (Pb) from PbO and Pb-containing resources

The project investigates the kinetics and reaction mechanism of hydrogen reduction of lead from simple oxide compound PbO to a mixture of multi oxides such as slags and other complex Pb-containing resources in support of decarbonisation of lead industries.

Hydrogen plasma reduction of oxides (rare earth oxides, Fe2O3, SiO2 and Cu2O)

The project focuses on establishing the fundamentals (reaction mechanism and kinetics), as well as the development of a unique hydrogen plasma process to produce metals from their oxides and compounds.  

Carbothermic reduction of weathered ilmenite (Ti ore) using biomass

The project looks at the mechanism and the kinetics of the reduction of weathered ilmenite (titanium ore) using an alternative coal or carbon source, i.e. a different type of biomass. 

Carbothermic reduction of red mud and HPAL nickel residue using biomass

The project looks at the mechanism and the kinetics of the reduction of red mud and HPAL nickel residues using an alternative coal or carbon source, i.e. a different type of biomass.

Lithium (Li) can be separated from its compounds by application of a high temperature aided by reductant (e.g. carbon through carbothermic reduction). However, upon cooling Li tends to re-oxidise or recombine with other elements. This project studies a supersonic quenching of the Li gas to its solid form using a de Laval nozzle in support of a novel Lithsonic process being developed by CSIRO. 

The project investigates a novel process for silicon refining in the context of recycling of solar panel. The process involves the application of external voltage or current to silicon and slag phase to enhance the removal of B and P impurities during slag refining treatment. The project aims to establish the fundamentals reaction kinetics and mechanism, as well as developing it to a pilot medium-scale process.

This project investigates the hydrogen reduction to recover valuable metals from by-products of the iron and steel industries. It starts with simple pure materials into their complex mixtures, then industrial samples. Systematic characterisation of the industrial samples, as well as evaluation of possible ways to utilise the by-products as useful new products, are also carried out in the project.

Have a question about energy transition metals?

For more information, please contact Professor Akbar Rhamdhani via or +61 3 9214 8528.

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