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The Decarbonization Race

Mar 20, 2023

Electrification is a critical part of decarbonization - but ensuring emissions come down in the process means ensuring the processes that get us there don’t create their own excessive impacts. The global appetite for electric vehicles and battery-based energy storage has grown considerably, and with it, the need for more raw materials to produce them. But as the first generations of electric vehicles and battery storage start to retire and replace batteries, processes for recycling them at end-of-life are still being refined and facilities scaling up.

Coming in with a fresh solution is Megan O’Connor, CEO and Co-Founder of Nth Cycle, a metal processing technology company that works with both lithium battery recyclers and miners to increase the supply of critical minerals for the clean energy transition. Nth Cycle’s electro-extraction technology, the OYSTER, provides more efficient harvesting of these materials from batteries during recycling as well as mining, from both low-grade ores and waste streams.

On this episode, Megan shares with host Lincoln Payton the story of Nth Cycle’s beginnings in a Yale laboratory, how she and her team took the technology to scale, and its potential to make meeting global needs for battery materials more localized and more efficient.

Key Takeaways:

  • Nth Cycle’s mission is to change the perception of the mining industry by creating a much cleaner way to process these materials to try and get as much of these metals back in circulation, and enabling manufacturers to source those materials in other ways.
  • Electro-extraction only uses electricity and water - meaning no high temperatures, high pressures, or solvents. As a technology, it not only helps increase the efficiency of battery recycling but also reduces the carbon footprint by over 40%.
  • Nth Cycle developed the OYSTER unit to be mobile and each has a 1200-ton processing capacity, and its initial use has been focused on the nickel scrap sector. The heaviest concentrations of nickel production are in Indonesia, so Nth Cycle’s technology offers an opportunity for companies looking to localize or diversify supply. Another area of opportunity is other types of heavy industrial nickel scrap sources such as catalysts from oils and gas.