Metastable Materials, a pioneering company in the field of lithium-ion battery recycling, has been making waves for its groundbreaking efforts towards sustainability. Here’s an insight into the company’s remarkable journey, the team’s motivation towards sustainability, proprietary technology, end-to-end waste management services, and plans for the future.
Eetastable Materials has had an impressive journey so far. “It all started with a simple research project that Shubham undertook during his time at IIT Roorkee. Looking at the industry standard processes of recycling lithium-ion batteries at that time, it was clearly evident that there was a pressing need for groundbreaking innovation in this field,” shares Manikumar Uppala, Co-Founder & Chief of Industrial Engineering, Metastable Materials.
Hailing from a Materials Engineering background, Shubham Vishvakarma, Founder, Metastable Materials, developed a process that could extract all critical metals from lithium-ion battery waste without chemicals. This breakthrough was highly inspired by the philosophy that waste materials should not be treated as waste but rather like any other ore of the metals that can be extracted out of these.
Vishvakarma, an IIT Roorkee graduate of Batch of 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Materials Engineering, conceived the idea of Metastable when he stumbled upon the processes that formed the basis of the technology the team used to establish the company. After graduating, he joined NBC’s Jaipur facility, where Uppala had already been working for more than a year after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Roorkee. Another alumnus, Saurav Goyal, with a master’s degree, completed the core team. Their collaboration and shared vision were integral to the creation of Metastable Materials.
Uppala states, “It all fit perfectly for us, like puzzle pieces, and we were soon enough wholly invested in creating Metastable.”
Why urban mining is crucial
“Lithium-ion battery technology has led the way into the era of electric vehicles and renewable energies by proving itself a viable option for storing energy. However, on the flip side, batteries degrade with time, and their efficiency in holding charge diminishes over their lifecycle. As a result, they contribute to the already growing mountain of e-waste and need to be recycled safely for the entire endeavor to become successful,” adds Uppala.
In addition to this, the resources required to build these Li-ion batteries are limited to only specific geographies. Therefore, it becomes even more crucial that whatever opportunities are available should be capitalized on to the fullest, he stresses.
Metastable’s pilot facility, currently under commissioning near Bengaluru, is slated to be one of India’s largest in carrying out end-to-end recycling of lithium-ion batteries and associated waste materials. Its capacity of ~1,500 metric tonne per annum is expected to cater to 4-6 percent of India’s recycling demand for lithium-ion batteries as of today. It is equipped with several state-of-the-art machinery and is designed entirely in-house to enable extraction of materials like copper, aluminum, lithium, and even plastics, with high purities so that minimal solid waste is generated and a maximum output of usable products is achieved.
Integrated Carbothermal Reduction™
Metastable Materials employs its patented process, Integrated Carbothermal Reduction™, for end-to-end lithium-ion battery recycling. This innovative technology involves multiple stages of material extraction and purification, enabling the recovery of metals like copper, aluminum, cobalt, nickel, and lithium in their most commonly traded commodity forms. The core focus is on sustainability and scalability to meet future demands.
Uppala explains, “As the renewable energy and EV markets grow, the onus will be on the recycling industry to ensure that their growth does not have a knock-on effect on the environment by generating more pollution and causing even more harm than good. Our chemical-free operations and ability to extract over 90 percent of the materials is a testament to this very idea.”
Offering customers flexibility
Metastable Materials’ recycling products and services provide its customers complete flexibility in using the precious metals as they wish to, from making steel to jet engines to new Li-ion cells. Uppala elaborates that the company’s end products primarily comprise copper, aluminum, cobalt, and nickel in their metallic forms, created as fine powders and ingots, while lithium is produced as a white powder of its carbonate. Generating standard commodity forms of these metals allows the company to trade with an array of clients in the market looking to purchase the metals in their rawest forms to be used per their needs.
Notably, nickel is predominantly utilized in steel production and alloy manufacturing, where its metallic form is an essential additive. Similarly, cobalt, copper, and aluminum find extensive application in various industries beyond lithium-ion batteries, where their native metallic forms are highly valued for diverse purposes.
The team at Metastable has been equally focused on developing solutions to safely transport the batteries from all across the country to the company’s recycling facility. The outcome of that is a multi-layered packaging box that is both heat and fire-resistant.
A clean and safe supply chain of lithium-ion batteries has been an active part of the debate when it comes to recycling, especially when relatively unstable, end-of-life batteries are in question. As a result, the team at Metastable has been equally focused on developing solutions to safely transport the batteries from all across the country to the company’s recycling facility. The outcome of that is a multi-layered packaging box that is both heat and fire-resistant. The packaging material ensures that any fire risks are mitigated during the transportation and storage of batteries, even in cases of thermal runaways from punctured and damaged cells. “We are unconditionally committed to leading the way in this regard and ensuring that no future incidents occur because of such gaps in the supply chain,” assures Uppala.
Backed by the best
Metastable Materials is backed by some of the largest investors in the deep-tech and global investment community. “We have been entrusted and supported by the best people. Their expertise in company building and strategic insight have been truly valuable,” comments Uppala.
The company is among the seven early-stage Indian startups of the eighth cohort of Sequoia Capital’s accelerator program Surge. The recent funding round also saw participation from Speciale Invest; Theia Ventures; Climate9ers; and Archana Priyadershini, Co-founder, fwdSlash Capital.
The funding will be used to commercialize the technology developed and to lay the groundwork for future expansion, including forming partnerships with OEMs, commercializing the company’s pilot plant, and hiring a team.
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