Pioneering battery materials specialist Nano One (TSX:NANO, Frankfurt:LBMB) has strengthened its environmental supply chain expertise as the company demonstrates its suitability to meet the higher standards auto manufacturers and governments are starting to demand of electric vehicle battery manufacturers.
The company also confirmed that it is filing another patent application that could further support the sustainability of its processes and their value within the entire supply chain.
New raw materials strategy advisor appointed
The company has appointed Robert Morris as an advisor on its battery raw material strategies. This comes as automotive companies are, investors and governments increasingly demand environmentally sustainable supply chain practices. Morris joins a strong team of strategic advisors at Nano One including Joe Lowry, Gord Kukec and Dr Byron Gates.
His arrival is important to Nano One as the company seems to be poised to work with one or more currently unnamed partners in the auto industry on top of its existing partnerships with Volkswagen and Pulead. Sustainable supply chains are going to be an important part of the entire EV supply chain offering: for example, Elon Musk has put out a call for sustainable nickel.
Nano One’s latest technology eliminates the need for metal sulphates from refiners, and reduces costly and environmentally sensitive waste streams in cathode production. Nano One has confirmed that it has made a patent application that could align its processes with those of raw material suppliers for a cost effective, integrated and environmentally sustainable supply chain.
“The leaders in electric vehicle manufacturing, investors and governments are all seeking sustainable sources of raw materials for use in lithium-ion batteries, especially nickel and cobalt,” said Dr Stephen Campbell, CTO with Nano One. “We believe that Nano One’s cathode production technology could contribute by enabling integration with raw material suppliers to eliminate waste streams and provide cost effective and environmentally sustainable processes.”
Dr Campbell confirmed that Nano had recently filed another patent application relating to this integration opportunity. It represents what we think is yet another considerable technological edge for the company, as its processes remove waste at the cathode level, keeping the sulfate waste stream up at the refiner level. This should result in less steps in the manufacturing process and lower costs, which we believe is a unique factor within the Nano One process.
Why do sustainable supply chains matter for next gen batteries?
Miners and refiners supply nickel in the form of sulfate (22% nickel, 78% waste) to manufacturers, mostly in China, who mix it in a caustic process with cobalt and manganese to form an intermediate precursor while generating a sizable sulfate waste stream that adds cost, complexity and environmental challenges. Lithium is then added to the precursor in a prolonged thermal process to form cathode powders, before final protective coatings can be applied. This supply chain is long and complicated with waste handling, sales, support, logistics, shipping, and margins added at each stage.
We interviewed Nano One CEO Dan Blondal on The Armchair Trader podcast where he provided a good overview of the company’s research efforts.
Nano One’s patented one-pot process forms durable single crystal cathode powders and protective coatings simultaneously and directly from non-sulfate metal salts. It is an aqueous process that operates at room-temperature and atmospheric pressures, and it eliminates the precursor step, and the extra coating steps completely while keeping the sulfate stream at the refiner where it can be recycled.
This aligns Nano One with the sustainability objectives of automotive companies, investment communities and governmental infrastructure initiatives. It also offers an opportunity for nickel refiners to provide environmentally and sustainability minded sources of nickel or to integrate and manufacture cost-reduced value-added cathode powders for direct supply to battery manufacturers.
“There is a tremendous opportunity to further optimize the global supply chain for the critical metals required for today’s lithium ion batteries,” Morris said. “In addition to bringing important efficiencies to the supply chain, Nano One’s technology has the capability to significantly reduce the waste stream associated with processing these metals in the production of cathode active materials.”
The Armchair Trader started covering Nano One on 3 December. Shares were trading at C$1.13. At the time of writing, Nano One stock was priced at C$2.81. It has a 52-week high of C$3.77.