“Li-Metallic’s overarching technique is to entrench then develop,” CEO Jastrzebski informed MINING.COM.
Satisfied that lithium steel batteries are the following huge factor, the Canadian firm has developed a lithium steel manufacturing course of that takes lithium carbonate, as recycled or virgin powder or granules, and dissolves it in molten salt. That is then electrolyzed in a membrane electrowinning cell which splits the lithium carbonate into technical-grade lithium steel and off-gas. The technical grade lithium steel is refined additional to create high-performance, battery-grade steel.
In accordance with Jastrzebski, this course of is inexpensive than present lithium manufacturing processes, can make the most of home chemical sources, and is extra sustainable.
“Our lithium steel manufacturing makes use of a special feedstock; lithium carbonate, reasonably than lithium chloride, which may be very advantageous. This requires a two-compartment cell with separate electrolytes for the cathode and anode, so the construction of the cell and working philosophies are fairly completely different in comparison with the traditional course of,” the manager defined. “The one similarity is that as the traditional course of, it’s a molten salt electrolysis course of.”
MDC: What makes it extra sustainable?
Jastrzebski: One of many greatest benefits of our course of is that it avoids electrolyzing lithium chloride. Whenever you electrolyze lithium chloride, you launch about 5 tonnes of poisonous chlorine fuel for each tonne of steel you produce. This manifests as each fugitive emissions within the plant, and tail fuel that must be captured and handled. By eliminating this supply of emissions, we’re in a position to scale back the environmental affect of the method by-products. Equally, as a result of our course of doesn’t require subtle gas-treatment gear, we remove the power and supplies related to its operation.
MDC: What makes it cheaper?
Jastrzebski: Firstly, most high-purity lithium chloride is comprised of lithium carbonate, so by utilizing lithium carbonate straight we remove a conversion step that usually provides to the enter value of the feedstock. Secondly, as a result of we don’t have to construct and function the identical subtle fuel therapy gear, we save each on the preliminary construct value of the plant, and on the working value relative to the traditional course of.
New anode expertise
Because it develops its lithium steel manufacturing expertise, Li-Metallic can also be engaged on a brand new lithium anode expertise.
The feedstock for each developments is obtained within the open market however as soon as commercial-scale operations start, the intention is to supply sustainable, North American uncooked supplies, together with lithium carbonate from recycled batteries.
Jastrzebski defined that the corporate’s anode expertise makes use of a roll-to-roll deposition course of that consists of unwinding wide-format micron-scale materials from the substrate roll after which passing the substrate by means of a number of deposition zones the place lithium steel is utilized along with a mix of different supplies. From there, the finished anode is wound onto the product roll and packaged in argon fuel for delivery, battery manufacturing or storage.
“The inspiration behind our anode merchandise is roll-to-roll bodily vapour deposition – it is a expertise that has been efficiently utilized in producing giant format low-cost metallic merchandise for many years,” the CEO stated. “Our method is exclusive due to the number of supplies we will deposit in a single move. This offers us the potential to impart a wide range of properties to the anode supplies that can be utilized to reinforce the electrochemical or financial efficiency of the supplies.”
In accordance with Jastrzebski, Li-Metallic’s lithium anode expertise makes use of much less lithium for each sq. meter of anode in comparison with the alternate options which are obtainable as we speak.
“Present lithium steel anodes are made by first extruding and rolling lithium into skinny sheets. They’ll make thick foils which are between 40 and 150 microns but it surely turns into pricey and troublesome to scale as you method the thicknesses which are wanted for next-generation batteries,” he stated. “Our expertise does the alternative – it will get extra economical because the anode thickness decreases and the cell measurement will increase – which is precisely the place next-generation batteries are going.”
MDC: What are Li-Metallic’s plans as soon as the patents for the anode expertise and the lithium steel manufacturing course of are accredited?
Jastrzebski: We now have a wholesome expertise and product growth roadmap and we’re constantly increasing our patent portfolio – we’ve filed extra patent purposes this yr, so we don’t actually see patent approval as an end-state, however reasonably as a part of our ongoing course of.
We will even proliferate our applied sciences. We plan to provide and probably license our anode manufacturing expertise to battery and EV producers, provide lithium steel consumables to operators of the expertise, and proceed to provide high-quality anode supplies for high-performance batteries with pre-commercial and early industrial manufacturing runs to feed the pipeline.
Our key subsequent steps are to fee our in-house superior anode supplies lab at our Markham, Ontario facility – we anticipate the work we’ve deliberate there to yield extra patentable IP. This might be shortly adopted by the completion of our pilot roll-to-roll anode manufacturing facility in Rochester, NY the place we are going to industrialize the analysis finished within the anode lab. We’re additionally anticipating the completion of our new lithium steel manufacturing pilot facility in Markham within the coming months. Wanting additional forward, we’re aiming to finish the engineering of our prototype commercial-scale anode manufacturing gear and facility in 2022.
MDC: The place does Li-Metallic match within the next-generation battery provide chain?
Jastrzebski: Li-Metallic will be considered a mid-stream provider. Our price chain begins with bulk lithium carbonate and ends with rolls of high-performance metallic lithium anodes prepared to enter battery cells. We’re a buyer of the chemical producers and a provider to battery producers. We will additionally probably provide intermediate merchandise corresponding to metallic lithium to different industries.
The subsequent-generation battery provide chain requires a totally developed provide chain that doesn’t even exist but. Producing next-generation batteries for electrical automobiles with present applied sciences will be pricey, utilizing extra lithium than wanted. In the end our applied sciences develop the constructing blocks for next-generation batteries creating less expensive, longer vary, and safer electrical automobiles.