UP Catalyst, a leading nanotech company, will develop its 3rd-generation reactor to produce advanced carbon materials for batteries. This solution will specifically tackle the key challenges in carbon manufacturing. The 2-year project received funding from EAS-Enterprise Estonia to produce high-purity carbon from CO2 for battery applications.
Tallinn-based UP Catalyst uses the Molten Salt Carbon Capture and Electrochemical Transformation (MSCC-ET) to produce carbon nanomaterials and graphite. Graphite makes up half of an electric car’s battery weight and is a vital part of the battery anode. But Europe relies heavily on imports that reach up to 500,000 tons annually and put the local supply at risk.
Another form of carbon widely used in battery electrodes is carbon nanotubes (CNTs), offering many advantages. These include faster charging and discharging rates, increased energy density, and improved durability.
UP Catalyst recognized the increased carbon footprint of traditional production methods. The most common way to produce CNTs is the energy-intensive Carbon Vapor Deposition (CVD), consuming 800 kWh/kg. At the same time, graphite is either mined or produced from fossil fuels.
To address this, they developed an eco-friendly and energy-efficient solution using CO2, exceeding current limitations. However, the challenge of producing the greenest and purest carbon materials remains. Therefore, the company is constantly improving its methods to offer the best industry practices.
UP Catalyst’s RnD team came up with an innovative concept inspired by methods widely used in the aluminium industry. The goal is to avoid corrosion in vessel structures and achieve low impurity and metal levels. This breakthrough will guarantee a ppm-level of impurities, essential for top-notch energy storage applications.
“The solution’s implementation has certain risks due to its one-of-a-kind nature,” said Sander Trofimov, Production Manager at UP Catalyst.
If UP Catalyst succeeds, it will mark a new era in battery manufacturing. Replacing conventional with UP Catalyst graphite can lead to a remarkable 22% improvement in battery sustainability. Therefore, ensuring the highest product quality is very important. It guarantees battery sustainability without compromising other vital properties like energy density and capacity.
“As raw material suppliers, we are responsible together with battery producers to make batteries greener”, said CTO at UP Catalyst, Einar Karu. “Our aim is to produce affordable, green graphite and CNTs that can lead to superior performance”, he concluded.
The project will begin on October 1, 2023, and will end on September 30, 2025. Technology scale-up will secure the world’s first CO2-negative supply of battery-grade carbon. The next steps will see UP Catalyst establishing its first industrial unit.