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Clean Energy Ventures leads investment battery startups Nth Cycle and Volexion; upstream, downstream

Clean Energy Ventures, a $110-million venture capital firm investing in early-stage climate tech startups, is leading the investments in two battery startups: one in the upstream (Nth Cycle) and one in the downstream (Volexion). Nth Cycle extracts cobalt, nickel and other critical battery metals from discarded batteries, e-waste and mining waste to make new batteries using a new technology that’s cheaper and more efficient than conventional methods.

Volexion has developed a graphene coating technology for the cathode that boosts energy and power density, cycle life and safety in a low-cost process. Volexion’s funding is co-led by Energy Foundry.

Nth Cycle. Nth Cycle, the maker of a recycling technology that extracts critical metals from batteries, e-waste, low-grade ore, and mine tailings so they can be reused to make new clean energy products, secured $3.2 million in funding from investors led by climate tech venture capital firm Clean Energy Ventures.

Nth Cycle uses a process called electro-extraction to recover cobalt and other minerals from discarded batteries and mining ores and waste using only electricity and carbon filters. The system is based on an electrochemically-modified filter press, combining both filtration and electrowinning into one unit.

This allows for operation at low voltages and high current efficiencies, significantly reducing energy costs and footprint. In addition, the in-situ base production alleviates the need for highly caustic chemicals while reducing waste, potential hazards, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Electro-extraction is thus a cleaner, lower-cost alternative to the conventional pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy processes used by battery recyclers and mining companies to recover cobalt, nickel and manganese for new battery manufacturing.


Nth Cycle process diagram

Nth Cycle, whose technology was developed at Harvard University and Yale University, recently opened new operations in the Boston area, and will use the funding to execute its technology roadmap and deploy several pilot projects with recyclers and mine operators early next year.

The company has seen extensive interest in its technology from battery recyclers, operators of existing and proposed mines, auto OEMs and micro-mobility companies, and battery manufacturers eager to utilize this technology to reduce reliance on imported critical metals or environmentally unfriendly recovery technologies.

Separating critical minerals from other metals in the recycling and mining process can be costly and complex. A technology like Nth Cycle’s reduces the cost, footprint, and environmental impact of producing recycled metals that have exactly the same composition and performance as newly mined minerals.

—Daniel Miller, Innovation Crossroads Program Lead at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Volexion. Volexion, the developer of a conformal graphene coating for lithium-ion cathodes that increases energy and power density as well as cycle life and safety, closed the $1.1-million first tranche of its $2.2-million seed financing led by climate tech venture capital firms Clean Energy Ventures and Energy Foundry.

Volexion’s proprietary graphene coating acts as a protective layer around battery cathode materials to suppress material and electrolyte degradation. Battery cells with Volexion’s coating can see a 30% increase in energy density, 40% increase in power density, and run twice as long as conventional lithium-ion batteries.

Volexion-coated cathode material is drop-in, integrating directly into any manufacturer’s existing processes, and is complementary to advanced anode technologies.

Volexion already has nine collaboration agreements in place with cathode and battery producers as well as automotive original equipment manufacturers. The technology can unlock performance improvements for consumer electronics and grid storage sectors as well as for electric vehicles.

By innovating on the cathode, Volexion’s technology can work in conjunction with many of the new, emerging battery chemistries and anode innovations. Promising technologies like cobalt-free batteries could potentially enter the market even sooner when combined with Volexion’s technology.

—John Carlisle, Director of Chain Reaction Innovations at Argonne National Laboratory

Volexion has been developing its technology at Argonne with support from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.


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