You’re the Technical Director of the Spokane Research and Development Center. You’re thinking about lithium-ion batteries every day and trying to improve battery materials and technology. What’s your goal? What drives you every day when you go into the lab?
Every day my goal is to try and improve our graphite. There are so many variables and interactions between the processes and performance that we have no shortage of tests we want to perform or optimization opportunities. The ultimate goal is pretty straightforward: become a world leader in battery anode materials.
How will advanced battery materials and technology improve the life of the average person in the future? What do you see ahead for us?
Who doesn’t want a phone that lasts longer? Or an electric vehicle with longer range? Or instant recharging? These user experiences are determined by battery materials. As we make better materials, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can make better batteries.
What is Pyrotek’s role in delivering greater sustainability and advanced technology from batteries — both for our customers and the end users?
It has become common to think of electrification as a greening of technology. Electric cars don’t make pollution. There is some controversy because the electricity does need to come from somewhere, batteries just store it. But most analysts agree that electricity generation is generally more efficient and less polluting than the average consumer burning fossil fuels to run their cars.
Most people don’t think about how the battery was made and how much pollution the manufacturing causes. Pretty much all the world’s battery-grade graphite comes from China where environmental controls are much less stringent than in Western countries. Graphite, for example, is usually processed through a furnace called an Acheson furnace. This is an incredibly dirty technology and has been banned in the United States. By comparison, Pyrotek’s graphitization technology produces less than two percent of the emissions of an Acheson furnace. That’s >98% cleaner! And we’re starting to see our sustainability philosophy is getting OEMs attention. Battery companies do not want to be associated with high pollution, so they are turning to Pyrotek.
Pyrotek makes lithium-ion battery-grade graphite on a commercial scale in North America. Would you explain how we do this using hydropower with near zero emissions?
The specific process is a trade secret, so I can’t share the details. But the process uses an incredible amount of electricity. By taking advantage of the low-cost hydroelectricity, we produce graphite that is cost-effective against Chinese producers without the pollution.
What about our responsible sourcing of materials and environmental standards? What are Pyrotek’s commitments there?
Our commitment is to operate sustainably and profitably without harming our environment. This also extends to our suppliers. We only source raw materials from US or European suppliers as they are held to very high standards.
What does the future hold for Pyrotek when it comes to anode materials for lithium-ion battery applications? Where do you see the company in five or 10 years?
We’re building our capacity and developing new materials. We intend to be the premier anode supplier with a variety of material options to fit a customer’s need.
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