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Cyclic Materials adds former Li-Metal president to advisory board

Kunal Phalpher also served as chief commercial officer and chief strategy officer at Li-Cycle

IMAGE: Kunal Phalpher
Cyclic Materials' advisory board member Kunal Phalpher. (Courtesy Cyclic Materials)

Rare earth elements recycler Cyclic Materials has appointed former Li-Metal Corp. president Kunal Phalpher to its advisory board to aid in its commercialization efforts.

Founded in 2021, Kingston, Ont.-based Cyclic Materials uses its proprietary process to recycle rare earth elements (REEs). These elements, including copper, aluminum, steel, cobalt and nickel, are integral to the shift toward electrification and decarbonization technologies for electric vehicles, renewable energy and battery storage solutions.

“Cyclic’s co-founder Patrick Nee, he’s the VP of strategic partnerships. He’s leading the business development team. My main focus is really to support him and guide him and how he builds that out (and) basically finds feedstock to recycle through their process,” Phalpher said.

Phalpher will offer strategic guidance and aid the company in its commercial and business development strategy.

“Having lived through a scale-up, there's other areas where I tried to support in terms of organizational design and government relations, where I've helped other companies previously.”

Phalpher’s background, and his new role

Before his role at Markham, Ont.-based lithium metal anode developer Li-Metal (LIM-CN), Phalpher also served as Li-Cycle Holdings Corp.’s chief commercial officer and, later, chief strategy officer. At Toronto-based lithium battery recycler Li-Cycle, he managed battery and automotive customer accounts and oversaw various functions including marketing and public relations, government relations, corporate development and ESG reporting.

“Since our time serving together on the board at Li-Cycle, Kunal has been a catalyst in business development — driving key partnerships. We’re building a strong and diverse new strategic partnerships team to address the skyrocketing market for raw materials, identifying new sources of feedstock reaching end-of-life,” Ahmad Ghahreman, Cyclic Materials’ CEO and co-founder, said in a statement.

Ghahreman had previously been an advisor at Li-Cycle (LICY-N). Phalpher ran into him at an airport a few months ago, which eventually led to him joining the company.

“Since there's some analogies or analogous thoughts between what Li-Cycle is trying to achieve and what Cyclic Materials is trying to achieve,” Phalpher said, “I thought it'd be a great help in trying to build out their team and commercial structure just like I had at Li-Cycle in the early days.”

Cyclic Materials’ future

In April, the company raised $27 million in a Series A funding round led by Energy Impact Partners and BMW i Ventures and included participation from Fifth Wall, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada and existing Cyclic Materials investor Planetary Technologies.

Phalpher said the funding will be used to continue to build out the company's pilot plants and add to the team.

Cyclic Materials is focused on building a domestic supply chain for its rare earth elements.

“The team that Patrick's building is really structured on how to attack those different verticals because a lot of motors right now actually go overseas from that electronics recycling channel to get recycled,” Phalpher said. “So there's not really a good supply chain for taking these materials back in North America, and then recovering the materials.”

The company is piloting its technology in Kingston. Its eventual goal is to have a North American network of facilities to reprocess the minerals. Cyclic Materials is also looking at adding new feedstocks – electric aviation being one of several possibilities.

"Traction motors, whether it's car, scooter, truck, anything that is powered by an electric motor or electrified, so that's really the big fish,” Phalpher said.

“There's a lot of other little electric motors all over the place that you can go after right now that are going overseas. As you start at a smaller scale, those are beneficial to continue to pilot and develop the technology as well.”

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