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ULiège and their partners of the CISTEMEEC Project Aim to Make Electric Mobility More Circular

Philippe Giaro, a Senior Research Officer of the GeMMe research group (Georesources, Mineral Engineering and Extractive Metallurgy) at the University of Liège (ULiège), spoke to us about CISTEMEEC, a Belgian initiative developed by the GeMMe in association with a consortium of industrial and academic and research partners within the Next Generation EU program.


ULiège and their partners of the CISTEMEEC Project Aim to Make Electric Mobility More Circular pg
Philippe Giaro

The University of Liège is a leading Belgian University located in the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles of Belgium within the Euregio region. Nested in an industrial region and naturally cross-cultured, the University of Liège has a long tradition of applied research and industry collaborations for the upscaling of technologies and know-how in the field of raw materials.

ULiège and their partners of the CISTEMEEC Project Aim to Make Electric Mobility More Circular p
ULiège pilot scale unit of the REEFINE process for the hydrometallurgical recycling of Rare Earth from permanent magnets

The GeMMe Research Group based at the University of Liège specializes in georesources, mineral engineering and extractive metallurgy. The GeMMe contributes to the development of innovative processes for the efficient management of mineral and metallic resources while providing unparalleled upscaling experience in urban ore characterization and processing (with a focus on innovative sorting techniques and hydrometallurgy) derived from a long research tradition in primary ores mining and processing.

The University of Liège is a founding member and a core partner of Reverse Metallurgy, a regional platform for industrial, technological and scientific excellence in the field of metal recycling founded in 2014 with industrial and academic partners to improve the recovery of metals from end-of-life products and complex raw materials. In 2022, an innovative and disruptive project portfolio targeting the digital revolution and the energy transition submitted by the Reverse Metallurgy platform was selected and is providing the University of Liège with 17.5 M€ of project financing for the period 2022 to 2026. This “Reverse Metallurgy+” portfolio was selected by the Walloon Government as part of the themes “low-carbon industry” and “circular economy”, two pillars of the Wallonia Recovery Plan for which the region has mobilized 113 M€.

An initiative of interest for the auto recycling industry would certainly be the CISTEMEEC project for the development of “industrial value chains, the transition energy, electric mobility and the circular economy”, involving a consortium of 11 Walloon partners covering the circularity of the electric mobility value chain. The total budget for CISTEMEEC is 28.5 million Euros, with the Walloon Region providing funding of 16.5 million Euros. The project will be developed under the coordination of Comet Traitements S.A., a subsidiary company of Groupe Comet, a Belgian innovative company processing and recycling shredder residues which are by-products of the shredding of metallic wastes (End-of-Life Vehicles or “ELV” and Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment or “WEEE” and collected scrap).

The rise in electric mobility combined with the energy transition involving the increasing use of renewable energies is at the heart of the major evolution towards a low-carbon society. The energy carrier is no longer carbon but a series of technological metals such as copper, cobalt, nickel, lithium, rare earth elements, or even precious metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium and silver. This transition implies a structural demand shift for such metals and supports the construction of new industrial production capacities.

The circular economy, in synergy with the primary mining and metallurgical sector, will not only make it possible to underpin these necessary increases in production but, in the case of the circular economy and recycling, also provide sustainable end-of-life management for consumer products equipped with a battery.

The CISTEMEEC project ambitions to grow three of these industrial value chains in Belgium underpinned by the rise of the electric mobility and energy transition sectors:

  1. The Li-ion battery recycling sector. These batteries are currently collected and sold at negative cost to processing centers outside the Walloon Region.
  2. The copper metal value chain. Copper being one of the main vectors for the electrification of our societies.
  3. The REE metal value chain generated through the processing of permanent magnets from electric motors, which are currently lost in the flow of scrap metal for the steel industry.

The CISTEMEEC project activities will be carried out over a period of 4 years. Based on processes demonstrated at TRL stages 3 to 6 at the start of the project, industrial pilots and demonstrators will be implemented in order to reach TRL stages 6 to 8 for the Li-ion battery, copper and rare earth elements value chains originating from ELVs and WEEE.

The GeMMe Research Group was instrumental in developing the recent Reverse Metallurgy+ portfolio and is teaming up with complementary University of Liège research entities in the CISTEMEEC project.

  1. GREEnMat is a research laboratory specializing in the pilot-scale synthesis, shaping and characterization of powders and suspensions for applications related to energy, the environment and health. It has strong expertise and a unique infrastructure dedicated to the pilot-scale synthesis of active materials for batteries, the shaping of these materials for the production of electrodes as well as the design and characterization of batteries.
  2. PEPS (Products, Environment, and Processes) is a research group active in the fields of (bio-) chemical reaction engineering, thermal and mechanical unit operations, process simulation, low carbon energy systems and sustainable development. A major strength is the capability to tackle problems on very diverse scales, from molecular to designing entire processes.

At the European level, the University of Liège has been a Core Partner of the EIT RawMaterials and actively involved in high-profile European Research projects, notably focusing on metals for the automobile industry and the energy transition as detailed below.

CEBRA: Integrated Circular Economy Business model decoupling EU from PGM supply (2019 – 2022)


LIFE PlasPLUS: Recycling of high-quality secondary thermoplastics and critical raw materials coming from mixed WEEE and EoL vehicles (2019 – 2022)


TARANTULA: Raw Materials consortium for the recovery of Tungsten, Niobium and Tantalum as by-products in mining and processing waste streams (2019 – 2022)


SALEMA: Substitution of critical raw materials on Aluminium alloys for electric vehicles (2021 – 2023)


PEACOC: Pre-commercial pilot for the efficient recovery of Precious Metals from European end-of-life resources with novel low-cost technologies (2021 – 2024)


RESILEX: Resilient Enhancement for the Silicon Industry Leveraging the EU matriX (2022 – 2026)


VALHALLA: Perovskite solar cells with enhanced stability and applicability (2023 – 2025)