Lithium-ion batteries are vital for a low carbon future. But their production requires a lot of energy, especially when it comes to mining and processing metals.
The global lithium battery market is expected to grow tenfold in the next decade. recent US Department of Energy reportmanifesting itself in everything from electric vehicles to energy storage for renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
The good news is that while the cathode materials that store electricity in a battery degrade, the materials they are made of do not. They are infinitely recyclable. While several companies are already in the business of recycling batteries, one claims they are not just recycling, but “recycling”, returning raw materials from discarded lithium-ion batteries back into the supply chain.
Massachusetts Climbing the elements captures battery metals and converts them into new battery materials rather than simply recycling entire components. Ascend can then sell these materials directly to manufacturers.
The process seems fairly simple, but it took decades to perfect. Ascend crushes used batteries and industrial waste and turns it into blackish sand. It then removes all the pieces of plastic, aluminum, and copper and leaches out the impurities, leaving behind the valuable nickel, cobalt, and lithium that make up the battery’s cathode material.
“We’re actually mining in cities, bringing this stuff in and turning it into a very useful material for battery manufacturers; so we are offsetting the required production volume,” said Michael O’Cronley, CEO of Ascend Elements. “We can reduce this carbon footprint by 90% to 93% by simply recycling these batteries and producing new cathode material.”
Research in scientific journal Jouleco-authored with the Ascend scientist who formulated the recycling method, found that batteries made using the cathode recycling method not only perform the same as batteries made from scratch, but also last longer and charge faster.
There are other battery recyclers on the market, but they do not destroy components down to this valuable cathode material.
“This is really the basis of our intellectual property. That’s what we’re commercializing right now,” O’Cronley said, adding that he expects to double his workforce of nearly 100 people this year as the company opens its first commercial-scale facility in Georgia. . The company has three small businesses in Massachusetts and Michigan.
Ascend has raised $95 million so far from investors such as InMotion Ventures Jaguar Land Rover, Hitachi Ventures, Orbia, Doral Energy, as well as At One Ventures, TDK Ventures and Trumpf Ventures. It is currently in another fundraising round.