PyroGenesis Canada Inc (CVE:PYR) told investors Tuesday that along with HPQ Silicon Resources Inc (CSE:HPQ), it was advancing the development of a new low-cost manufacturing process for producing the spherical silicon metal (Si) nano-powders and silicon metal nanowires needed for the next generation of lithium-ion silicon metal batteries.
In a statement, the company said the process is built on five years of PUREVAPTM quartz reduction reactor (QRR) development know-how.
PyroGenesis Canada is conducting a joint venture with HPQ Silicon Resources to produce silicon powders, and the companies modified an HPQ PUREVAP Gen2 reactor to undergo fruitful production tests.
After the successful GEN2 PUREVAPTM QRR proof-of-concept test, PyroGenesis said it finalized the engineering designs to upgrade a PUREVAPTM QRR into a PUREVAPTM reactor that can “transform” melted silicon metal into spherical nano-powders and nanowires.
As a result of the work, a new provisional patent application has been filed to protect the new process, said the company.
The PUREVAPTM silicon metal nano reactor
The company said the new PUREVAPTM process relies on a silicon metal nano reactor — the PUREVAPTM SiNR — that incorporates the PUREVAPTM QRR (patent pending) unique capability of removing impurities from silicon metal into a novel proprietary process that allows different purities of silicon metal feedstock to be melted into liquid silicon metal.
This liquid silicon metal can then be “synthesized” into the spherical silicon metal nano-powders and nanowires sought after by companies trying to build the next generation of lithium-ion batteries.
“The PUREVAPTM SiNR opens up a unique multibillion-dollar business opportunity for HPQ and PyroGenesis. PyroGenesis has a long track record of taking high-tech industrial projects from proof-of-concept to global commercial scalability, so we are confident about the prospect of being one of the first companies coming to market with a low-cost process that makes the spherical silicon metal nano-powders and nanowires,” said HPQ Silicon CEO Bernard Tourillon.
“Silicon metal’s potential to meet energy storage demand is undeniable and generating massive investments, as well as, serious industry interest, so our timing couldn’t be better,” he added.
The company said “successful tests” will demonstrate the “process flexibility” in making a range of advanced silicon metal materials. The preliminary timeline is for the reactor conversion to be completed over the coming months, said the company and having samples ready this fiscal year.
Spherical silicon metal nano-powders play an important role in producing high-performance Li-ion batteries with silicon metal anodes, which the company said can contain between 20% and 40% higher energy density.
Current manufacturing methods for silicon metal nano-powders are expensive with US$30,000 per kg selling prices, while making silicon metal nanowires is so prohibitive that only government-funded special projects can afford them.
“The opportunities that are being developed with the PUREVAP process is nothing short of intoxicating,” said PyroGenesis CEO Peter Pascali said in a statement.
“We never thought, when we first embarked on this project, that we would be developing game-changing technology sought after by the lithium-ion battery market.”
Silicon does not exist in its pure state and has to be extracted from quartz and other expensive raw materials through a carbothermic process.
Contact the author Uttara Choudhury at [email protected]
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