BASF Circularity Challenge @ Greentown Labs

In 2019, BASF, one of the largest cathode active materials manufacturers in North America, hosted a global competition in partnership with Greentown Labs to identify the most promising lithium-ion battery recycling technologies in the world. “The Circularity Challenge” was a six-month accelerator program designed to advance innovative solutions to disrupt the plastics, energy storage and recycling value chains to enable a circular economy. The challenge was also supported by Stanley Black & Decker, a leading global diversified industrial and a customer of BASF.

Among 100 applications from 20 different countries, ABTC was selected as sole winner of Battery Recycling Circularity Challenge for our novel lithium-ion battery recycling technologies. In the spirit of circularity, the primary goal of establishing a battery recycling system is to enable a closed loop flow of battery materials. ABTC was recognized as the winner because when end-of-life, full battery assemblies (including scrap materials) go through our recycling process, each individual element is extracted and purified to battery grade quality and can then be introduced directly back into the supply chain to manufacture new batteries.

“If you consider an end-of-life battery itself as its own mine, it has every element needed, and in exactly the right ratio, to make a new battery,” Melsert explains. “An individual battery cell is a closed system, so while over time the compounds degrade, the elemental composition of the battery is exactly the same at the end-of-life as the day it was manufactured. Additionally, it has fewer impurities as a feedstock than when starting off with a virgin material, which greatly simplifies the extraction processes. It’s the perfect feedstock to extract elements for the manufacturing of new battery cells.”

~ Ryan Melsert, ABTC CEO and CTO

During the challenge, ABTC began working in Greentown’s wet lab near Cambridge, MA, with BASF sponsoring the company’s bench. As the largest clean technology incubator in North America, the space at Greentown Labs also enabled ABTC to access more than $1 million worth of resources, equipment, programming, and staff support.

BASF has been an excellent organization to work with as we scale the recycling process, due to its reputation as one of the highest quality battery material manufacturers in the world and genuine interest in securing new supplies for their material manufacturing in a sustainable fashion. The opportunity involved collaboration with various groups within BASF, including the material R&D team, the procurement group, the precursor and active material manufacturing groups, and the metals and catalyst recycling teams.

ABTC has continued to participate in Greentown Labs’ technology incubator for far longer than the six months allotted as part of the award.

As part of the ongoing relationship, we have been given our own office space, access to a dedicated wet lab, and access to all of the incubator community benefits such as free software, free IP counseling, free mentors and scale-up advisors. The opportunity also came with access to pitch sessions, SMEs, training from experts in the IP, legal, fundraising, manufacturing, and scale up fields. It has been an ideal environment for us as we ramp up our lithium-ion battery recycling system through piloting operations.