Cyclic Materials launches pilot plant for recycling magnet materials
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Dec 21, 2023
Mehanaz Yakub

The new plant will help Cyclic scale up its technologies en route to building a full commercial plant with eight times greater capacity by 2025

The Kingston, Ont.-based advanced metals recycler has launched a pilot plant where they are able to successfully employ its proprietary technology called Mag-Xtract, to separate permanent magnets from end-of-life products (such as traction electric motors). Photo: Cyclic Materials

The new plant will help Cyclic scale up its technologies en route to building a full commercial plant with eight times greater capacity by 2025

This month, Cyclic Materials reached a significant milestone in commercializing its technology to establish a circular supply chain for rare earth materials critical to electrification in Canada.

The Kingston, Ont.-based advanced metals recycler launched a pilot plant where it uses its proprietary technology — called Mag-Xtract — to separate rare earth elements (REE) in permanent magnets from end-of-life products (such as traction electric motors).

According to Cyclic, initial results show the plant has processed “several tonnes of the magnet feedstock per day” and has the capacity to produce 1,000 kg/hour, or 8,000 tonnes per year, of magnet feedstock.

“This milestone is incredibly important for our company and the health of the company,” says Ahmad Ghahreman, co-founder and CEO of Cyclic Materials in an interview with Electric Autonomy.

“There are a lot of cleantech companies and technologies developed out there, but one of the challenging steps for many of those technologies is the scalability.”

Future commercial plant eight times larger

Since 2021, Cyclic Materials has been developing a two-step hub-and-spoke model recycling process for rare earth permanent magnets.

The company’s process aims to economically, sustainably and domestically turn end-of-life products into valuable raw materials that can be reused in the supply chains of electric vehicles and other technologies, such as wind turbines and smartphones.

Cyclic first achieved an initial proof-of-concept milestone for its Mag-Xtract technology in 2022. At the time, the company processed 4,000 kg of magnet-containing metals, such as copper, aluminum and steel, from end-of-life products.

“We have gone from really small-scale, bench-scale test work…to a near commercial, continuous pilot plant,” says Ghahreman.

Now that the new pilot plant in Kingston is operating, the next step, says Ghahreman, is to build out the company’s “first commercial iteration of this process” to be full-scale and operational by 2025.

“We are almost there. We have scaled up the technology significantly,” he says.

The commercial plant for the Mag-Xtract technology will have the capacity to produce eight times more magnet feedstock compared to the current 8,000 tonnes per year, adds Ghahreman.

Other deliverables

In addition to developing its Mag-Xtract technology, Cyclic is also working on building a second commercial demonstration plant, aimed at scaling up its hydrometallurgy technology — the process used in the “hub” stage of its processing model.

The two-step process starts at a “spoke” plant, where the magnets are isolated from end-of-life products using the Mag-Xtract technology. From there, they are transferred to the hub. There, Cyclic uses its chemical hydrometallurgical process to convert the magnets into various raw materials, including mixed rare earth oxide, cobalt-nickel hydroxide, and other by-products such as copper, aluminum, nickel, steel and boron.

In the fall of 2022, Cyclic piloted this hydrometallurgy technology at a capacity of 10 tonnes per year.

“Now, the next iteration will next be a larger, fully continuous, fully integrated, 100 per cent resembling full-scale commercial [demonstration] plant,” says Ghahreman. “And that’s what we are building in Kingston, Ont., as we speak.”

Cyclic plans to start operations at its commercial demonstration plant for hydrometallurgical technology during the second quarter of 2024.

Forming partnerships

In the past year, as well as advancing its operations, Cyclic also struck a notable business partnership with Polestar.

“The ideal partners for us are the ones that we can talk about circularity and help them to be a bit more circular in whatever they do,” says Ghahreman.

“For instance, a car manufacturer. They have base production for the electric motors that they put into the car, and also end-of-life automobiles. So, we want their help to receive those end-of-life products, recycle those into byproducts and eventually, in an ideal universe, we would like to sell them back the material that we have recycled so they can use it in the newer cars that they manufacture.”

So far, Cyclic has raised over US$30 million in funding from investors such as BMW iVentures, Energy Impact Partners, Planetary Capital, Fifth Wall and Bio-industrial Innovation Canada. The company also received a $3.6-million grant from Sustainable Technology Development Canada (SDTC).

Cyclic Materials will be participating in Electric Autonomy‘s EV Innovation & Technology Conference 2024 on Feb. 7. More information about the conference is available here.

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