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The Energy and Cost-efficient E-waste Recovery Project for Rare-earths and Precious Metals

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0019871
Agency Tracking Number: 254734
Amount: $1,099,045.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: 07d
Solicitation Number: DE-FOA-0002156
Solicitation Year: 2020
Award Year: 2020
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2020-08-24
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2022-08-23
Small Business Information
1 South Market Street Suite 1715
San Jose, CA 95113-1780
United States
DUNS: 080159595
HUBZone Owned: Yes
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Yes
Principal Investigator
 Tedd Lister
 (208) 227-3129
Business Contact
 Srini Vasan
Phone: (424) 227-1417
Research Institution
 Idaho National Lab
 Tedd Lister
2525 North Fremont Ave.
Idaho Falls, ID 83402-1502
United States

 (208) 526-4320
 Federally Funded R&D Center (FFRDC)

Idaho National Laboratory (INL), under funding from the Critical Materials Institute(CMI), has developed a US patented technology to reclaim valuable metals from waste electronic equipment. The Electrochemical Recycling Electronic Constituents of Value (E-RECOV) method uses an electrochemical cell to efficiently recover the bulk of metals from discarded electronics, leading to more complete recycling of materials while significantly reducing chemical use and waste generation. This Technology Transfer Opportunity (TTO) seeks to leverage the E-RECOV electrochemical process, an early stage technology with a proven lab model with a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) rating of TRL-3, and enable small business to demonstrate and scale up of the E-RECOV process to remove metals of value from electronic waste streams and reach the targeted outcome of TRL-6 at the end of Phase 2. The Phase 2 research will build upon the findings of Phase I into a fully functional, deployable prototype that can process 7 kilograms (kg) of e-waste per day, a 7X increase from the current 1 kg desktop version developed at INL. Under the SBIR/STTR’s TTO opportunity prograam, Quantum Ventura, Inc. is proposing to develop a fully functional prototype of E-RECOV which is capable of extracting precious metals, base metals and rare-earths at a rate of 7kg per day. As part of Phase 2, we will run the prototype plant and extract precious and base metals from the e-waste, test the production process, conduct quality control tests on the extracted metals, identify areas of production bottlenecks and perfect the production process as well as remove any glitches. During this 24 month phase, we will conduct further research and validation for commercializing the E-RECOV technology, build a viable and cost- effective supply-chain and economic model, and plan for scaling E-RECOV from a 7kg/day prototype to a full-fledged production unit that can process up to 1.8 Metric tons per day. We will initiate negotiations with the State of California, California Industrial Development Bank and others to find attractive financial sources of funding and incentives to build an economically viable state-of-the-art facility which is capable of supporting current and future industrial production needs. The E-RECOV process is capable of dissolving the major metals found in electronics and can be used on materials that have been shredded, magnetically separated or milled to a particle size less than one millimeter. Unlike acid leaching, E-RECOV method does not consume acid and continuously regenerates the initial oxidizer at the anode, which supports long-term operation without chemical consumption. E-RECO method is sustainable, safe and environmentally friendly. Processing can be done domestically, which further lessens the environmental impact from exportation. INL’s E-RECOV method reclaims base metals and rare earth elements (“REE’s”) before the precious metals are extracted, reducing impurities. Base metals include zinc, tin, lead, nickel and copper. REEs are lanthanides (elements with atomic numbers 57 to 71) that can be found in a variety of consumer and industrial products such as fluorescent and LED light bulbs, mobile electronics, electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels. Rare earth elements are difficult and expensive to obtain. The U.S. has a limited domestic supply of same which is vulnerable to disruption. No significant REE recycling is currently practiced in the US. In addition to extracting the precious metals and basic metals, REE recovery has been included in a parallel process after the magnetic separation of milled e-waste, as additional revenue for the E-RECOV process. Recovering more metal from waste electronics provides an opportunity to convert an exported and wasteful resource into a valuable domestic commodity. Once fully commercialized, E-RECOV’s metal recycling method will reclaim more high value materials, reduce reagent use and lessen the toxicity of remaining materials compared with current practices for salvage of metals from waste electronics. In the lab model, E-RECOV is proven to be 30% cheaper than conventional recovery technologies.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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