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PyroGenesis regains rights to battery material producing process

PUREVAP NSiR tech can be used to produce low-emissions silicon materials

PyroGenesis Canada Inc. (PYR-T), a Montreal-based company that uses plasma for sustainable applications, has reacquired the rights to its process which generates silicon-based powders for potential use in lithium-ion batteries and green hydrogen production.

The PUREVAP Nano Silicon Reactor (NSiR) process was developed by PyroGenesis on behalf of HPQ Nano Silicon Powders Inc., a subsidiary of Montreal-based HPQ Silicon, a company that produces silicon sustainably.

PUREVAP NSiR subjects quartz feedstock and carbon to a plasma arc in a vacuum furnace to produce spherical silicon powders and wires. PyroGenesis says it produces fewer carbon dioxide emissions compared to other production processes.

The silicon could potentially be used as a replacement for graphite in lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles and battery energy storage systems. The substitute could increase manufacturing of anode capacity for lithium-ion batteries by almost 10-times, translating into a 20 per cent to 40 per cent gain in the energy density, according to research cited by HPQ Silicon. The powder can also produce twice as much green hydrogen as conventional hydrolysis, HPQ Silicon claims.

The PUREVAP NSiR partnership dates back to 2020, and was intended to create a scalable and commercially viable process of replacing graphite in batteries with silicon. HPQ Silicon acquired the rights for $2.4 million.

But in November 2023, HPQ Silicon announced it would not pursue the development of PUREVAP NSiR, citing its analysis of the nano silicon material market and the development costs to achieve a commercial state. Under an agreement between the two companies, all the rights to the process would be returnable to PyroGenesis - at no additional cost - if HPQ Nano opted not to commercialize the technology.

“Nano silicon is still in its infancy, and so is the understanding of its usefulness. Reacquiring the intellectual property related to the PUREVAP NSiR allows us to continue to explore the full spectrum of possibilities for this metal,” Peter Pascali, president and CEO of PyroGenesis, said in a release.

PyroGenesis’ sustainable plasma uses

PyroGenesis provides a range of services using electrically powered plasma, such as smelting, waste management and destruction, waste-to-energy, and metals recovery from mining waste. The company says its plasma torches can help decarbonize a range of industries by shifting them away from fossil fuel-powered equipment.

HPQ Silicon’s subsidiary HPQ Silica Polvere Inc. and PyroGenesis have collaborated on other projects.

The first is an energy-efficient Fumed Silica Reactor (FSR) technology that converts quartz into fumed silica using at least 86 per cent less energy than existing industry processes. FSR could feasibly cut 120,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year if adopted, according to HPQ Silica Polvere.

The second is the PUREVAP Quartz Reduction Reactor, which turns quartz into pure silicon that can be used to produce solar panels, electronics and batteries. HPQ Silicon says it requires less electricity, feedstock and capital expenditures compared to current methods.

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