Nth Cycle

Nth Cycle

Brief Company/Project Description

Nth Cycle was created to disrupt the electronics manufacturing and recycling industries by changing their linear material model into a more efficient, circular one. Our mission is to help transition the United States away from their reliance on primary mining and refining of metals overseas, toward the recycling of rare earth and specialty metals (e.g., Co, In, and Y) domestically from (1) the electronics and semiconductor manufacturing processes themselves, and (2) the products at their end-of-life during the recycling process, for reuse in future advanced manufacturing processes.

We Are Looking For

  • Mentoring
  • Funding
  • Commercial partnerships
  • Customer identification

Critical Need for This Technology

As the world pushes toward a carbon-free future and new technologies increasingly rely on rare earth and specialty elements, concern has risen surrounding the economic, environmental, and socio-geopolitical stability of the long-term supply of these metals. With demand approaching and exceeding our current supply rates, and the majority of global production of these raw materials coming from undesirable, non-domestic locations, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has labeled certain rare earth and specialty metals as most critical with respect to their significance to clean energy. As a result of this metal criticality, there has been a movement toward better material management practices to create a secondary source of RESE to support the DOE and the rest of the world on their mission to achieve a secure and sustainable energy future. To achieve this goal, the focus has been on improving material efficiency in the manufacturing stage, and enhancing recycling management strategies in the end-of-life stage.

Many of the advanced electronic, semiconductor, and energy storage technology manufacturing and waste streams could serve as viable sources of secondary RESE if efficient separation methods existed to recover these metals for reuse. Such an achievement could yield a 10−20 fold reduction in energy consumption through the use of recycled metal versus acquiring primary metal from mining operations. In response to this need, Nth Cycle, LLC has developed a novel recycling technology that utilizes carbon nanotube membranes for enhanced separation and recovery of these valuable materials for reuse in the clean energy and electronic sectors.

Potential Market

Rare earth permanent magnets - $38.5 Billion by 2024, Li Ion Batteries - $93 Billion by 2025

Key Innovation

Nth Cycle has developed a novel carbon nanotube membrane separation technology for recycling rare earth and specialty metals, bulk metals, and precious metals from electronics waste and manufacturing waste streams as an alternative to the conventional energy-intensive extraction and refining processes currently used to obtain these metals for advanced manufacturing. Our competitive advantage is that we can provide one technology to a company or manufacturer to recycle not only rare earth metals, but also bulk and precious metals, in the form of metal oxides which can be directly reused in advanced manufacturing. We can also deploy this device to an existing manufacturing waste stream, enabling in-stream separation, due to its small footprint compared to existing technologies. This is uncommon in traditional metal recycling where multiple solvents and techniques would be required to reclaim each of those metal groups. This is achieved by stacking multiple high-throughput filter apparatuses in series, targeting different metals on each stage by fine-tuning the voltage to the metal of interest. These unique capabilities will allow us to penetrate the emerging market of electronics recycling and the existing manufacturing market as an enhanced separation device used to recover, isolate, and purify products in these important industrial processes.

R&D Status of Product

Nth Cycle’s technology is still in the R&D stage, exhibiting promising proof-of-concept data for metal separation and recovery for the electronics and semiconductor industries. Here, we have shown high recovery of bulk metals (copper (Cu) and nickel (Ni)) and five RESE metals (europium (Eu), neodymium (Nd), scandium (Sc), gallium (Ga), and cobalt (Co)) from synthetic streams, and high recovery of Nd and Pr from electronics waste. The next stage of development entails continued testing of electronics waste to improve recovery rates and purity of recovered material, as well as the building of the pilot scale device to test our method at scale to prove economic and technical viability.

Team Overview

Megan O’Connor - Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder (Megan O’Connor is an environmental engineer and chemist who has 5 years experience in developing carbon nanotube membrane separation technologies. She received her Ph.D. from Duke University, and her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Union College in Schenectady, NY.)

Desiree Plata - Co-founder (Desiree Plata is a chemist and environmental engineer with over 15 years of experience in developing nanostructured materials and wastewater management strategies. She also has extensive experience in the nanomaterial manufacturing space. Desiree received her Ph.D. from MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and her undergraduate chemistry degree from Union College in Schenectady, NY.)

Chad Vecitis - Co-founder (Chad Vecitis is a chemist, environmental engineer, and material scientist with over 15 years experience developing nanomaterials and nanotechnologies for electrochemical deposition and filtration. He received his Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology, and his undergraduate chemistry degree from Johns Hopkins University.)

Company Profile

  • Total Amount Raised: $505,000
  • Status: Private
  • Year Founded: 2017
  • Patents: 3 - U.S. Patent Application No. 15/941,679, filed March 30, 2018 (Based on U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/480,930, filed April 3, 2017; and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/636, 719, filed February 28, 2018)
  • Primary Industry: Rare earth and specialty metals recycling
  • Category: Metals Recycling
  • Estimated annual revenue: Pre-revenue
  • Employs: 2
  • R&D commercial collaborator: R&D is being conducted in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Department of Energy is providing funding to develop the technology and support is being provided through the Innovation Crossroads program.