Nth Cycle, a Boston-based metal refining technology start-up, entered commercial operation in September and this month announced independent validation of a low-emission refining technology called electroextraction.
According to independent research, the company’s refining capacity produces 92% less emissions than traditional mining and refining processes and 44% less emissions than modern critical mineral recycling technology.
The company says it can turn all types of scrap, including cobalt and nickel, into usable materials that can be returned to the supply chain.
The first product of the Nth Cycle is a mixed hydroxide precipitate containing nickel and cobalt. The production of MHP by smelting laterite ore is becoming a popular precursor chemical for battery cathode manufacturers. However, 81% of today’s MHP supply is refined by Chinese companies in Indonesia through a carbon-intensive hydrometallurgical refining process called HPAL (High Pressure Acid Leaching), he said in a news release, Nth Cycle said. increase.
This supply of HPAL-based MHP is environmentally hazardous and, as a foreign supply, is not a compliant supply of critical minerals for domestic battery manufacturing under the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act.
CEO Megan O’Connor met with Chad Vecitis, the company’s principal scientist and former professor at Harvard University, in 2017, when he was completing his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Duke University, and adviser and current professor. Co-founded Nth Cycle with Professor Desiree Plata. at MIT.
O’Connor told MINING.COM: America’s largest scrap recycler, North American cobalt and nickel mining and refining company.
“I was studying all things circular economy, especially metals, around the same time. I was pretty shocked when there wasn’t much attention paid to the fact that we can’t get access to the minerals we need.Clean energy and the transition are all about it, but no one was talking about the metals crisis.”
O’Connor said Nth Cycle’s core technology was originally developed for wastewater treatment, and electroextraction is a cleaner way to do hydrometallurgy.
“When you look at the market and say, ‘We need x tons of metal per year,’ there is not enough recycled material to achieve that amount from a demand perspective. I think pulling it out of scrap is a big step that we need to focus on,” she said.
O’Connor said the technology has been successful because it has a much lower capital investment and a smaller footprint, allowing the company to bring machines on site to smaller mines.
“We combine chemical precipitation with solvent extraction and electrowinning all in one technology, the electroextraction unit. reduction,” she said.
“Nth Cycle’s ultimate mission and vision is to bring enough materials into circulation so that in the future we won’t have to mine so much of them, and we will evolve the concept of a circular economy to It’s about making it easy to recycle and reuse. Again and again.”
“I don’t think people realize that these important minerals that are mined every day are the building blocks of clean energy. [fuels] I need to get these metals. There’s really no way around mining,” she said.
“We have to think about where in the country we get these ingredients,” she said. “But if we can create a cleaner, more efficient way to do this, we can make it a better process, so it’s not much. [permitting] “Not in my backyard,” people say and push back.
The company plans to deliver its first field unit in the 123rd quarter.