Kingston cleantech firm Cyclic Materials, which has developed a closed-loop recycling process for rare earth elements, has received $3.6 million in federal funding, the company announced Feb. 17.
The funding is part of a $68.2-million package announced by the federal government for 17 Canadian cleantech companies earlier this year.
Rare earth elements, or REEs, can be found in everything from wind turbines to electric vehicles to cellphones and hard drives – anything that uses powerful permanent magnets. Mining these elements, however, is difficult. Deposits are small and costly to extract and doing so can have a negative environmental impact.
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With two patent-pending technologies, Cyclic Materials can isolate the magnets containing the REEs, which can then be recycled.
With the funding, CEO Ahmad Ghahreman said by the time his company’s technology is ready for commercialization, the “business side will be ready.”
“Basically, in the startup life, every dollar counts,” Ghahreman told OBJ. “And this funding we’ll be using very carefully towards a huge scaleup of our technologies … It will help us make our technologies more mature and create the supply chain we need to make it commercial.”
The new money will also enable Cyclic to boost its testing capabilities. For the past two years, the company was processing about half a kilogram of materials a day – now, that’s increased to several tonnes.
“It proves our tech can work on a large scale and is capable of being scaled-up and it is economically viable,” said Ghahreman.
“This will be a significant push for us to move along our technology and we’re confident we’ll be the company to close the loop and make it accessible down the road,” he added. “We have the ambition to be the largest player in this space.”
Earlier this month, Cyclic signed a memorandum of understanding with Solvay, an industry leader in rare earth separation, purification, finishing and formulation. The two firms will work together to validate Cyclic’s compatibility with Solvay’s process, with the view of entering into an agreement for the production and supply of rare earth oxides.
Under the agreement, the rare earth oxides would be sent from Cyclic Materials’ Ontario site to Solvay’s plant in France.
In January, Cyclic Materials started working with global electric car company Polestar. Under that agreement, Polestar will purchase recycled REEs from Cyclic and Cyclic will recycle Polestar cars that contain REEs.
In October 2022, Ghahreman estimated that his company will eventually comprise 10 per cent of the rare elements market.
“Our objective is, by end of 2026, we will be producing 600 tonnes of rare earth elements per year in North America,” said Ghahreman. “But our vision is global and we are expecting to be operating and producing slightly over 3,000 tonnes a year of rare earth elements globally by 2031.”