A decarbonized energy and transportation system will not only look different than what we see today, it will be fundamentally built from different materials. Many of the materials needed for the energy transition either have yet to be extracted from the earth or, more so, they already exist as part of other products and are destined for landfills. By 2030, over 15 million tons of lithium-ion batteries are estimated to reach end-of-life. Today, less than five percent of batteries are recycled in any way.
Demand for these critical minerals (as governments categorize them) is growing exponentially, causing public and private actors to ramp up production to secure supply and competitiveness in future global markets. Geopolitical forces are only accelerating the trend. Russia’s war on Ukraine has brought the importance of energy and material security back to the forefront, and the US Inflation Reduction Act creates economic incentives for localizing supply chains. Unfortunately, today critical minerals are mined, refined, and recycled (if recycled at all) with massive environmental footprints, by only a few entrenched incumbents, and with complex and fragile supply chains. For example, 70% of the world’s cobalt, a small but critical mineral in lithium-ion batteries, is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and 80% is refined in China.
Meeting our growing demand for low-carbon technologies like energy storage will require a resilient, high-quality, cost-effective, and sustainable supply chain of the future’s most critical basic building blocks.
Why Nth Cycle?
As part of our Energy and Materials portfolio, we’re proud to invest in and support Nth Cycle, a materials processing technology company that transforms material waste into valuable metals for use in batteries and other low-carbon applications.
Nth Cycle’s electro-extraction technology is a giant leap forward for industry on its path to decarbonization. Nth Cycle’s technology uses electricity and water—rather than large, greenhouse gas-emitting furnaces or harsh chemicals—to more efficiently and cost-effectively extract minerals from one another. The electro-extraction technology easily installs onsite to recover critical minerals from separated e-waste, low-grade ores, and mine tailings, bringing high-quality critical minerals into circulation once again.
Nth Cycle’s electro-extraction system has demonstrated effective and efficient recovery of more than 85% of cobalt, nickel, manganese, and other critical minerals from battery waste streams using a single compact modular unit. It offers refining capabilities that are 92% lower emissions than traditional mining and refining processes and 44% lower emissions than more modern critical minerals recycling technologies. It also results in a 75% reduction in cost and a 60% reduction in energy use. And by maintaining minerals in circulation, Nth Cycle has an opportunity to capture an immense amount of wasted value. Battery waste streams today represent over $18 billion in financial value that is currently lost.
Our collaboration to accelerate a circularity in design and make
We are eager to leverage Autodesk’s resources, industry expertise, and industry networks to support Nth Cycle in enabling cleaner, more cost-effective refining of critical minerals worldwide. As an innovative materials organization committed to securing a decarbonized future, Nth Cycle’s success will help ensure a sustainable supply of materials to design and make a better world.
Learn more about how Nth Cycle is turning waste into profit.