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Estonian UP Catalyst lands new funding to craft clean carbon for batteries

Estonian nanotech startup UP Catalyst secured new funding from Enterprise Estonia to manufacture next-gen carbon materials for batteries.

Batteries are the heartbeat of the electric vehicle revolution, powering the world towards a greener future. But the quest for efficient, eco-friendly battery materials has always been challenging. Enter UP Catalyst, the nanotech wizards on a mission to change the game.

The University of Tartu spin-off startup, UP Catalyst is now a pioneering nanotech company, and it has just secured €1.5M in new funding to fuel its visionary project. Their goal? Craft cutting-edge carbon materials for batteries using their state-of-the-art 3rd-generation reactor. This endeavour promises to tackle the most pressing issues in carbon manufacturing while elevating battery technology to unprecedented heights. And one day, it may even help people to land on Mars.

Empowering Green Battery Solutions

One of the significant challenges in the electric vehicle industry is sourcing high-quality carbon materials for batteries. And that’s where UP Catalyst swoops in to save the day. Their innovative project, backed by EAS-Enterprise Estonia, aims to produce pristine carbon from CO2, the greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.

Why it matters? Europe heavily relies on carbon imports, posing a considerable risk to the local supply chain. UP Catalyst plans to change this scenario by utilizing the Molten Salt Carbon Capture and Electrochemical Transformation (MSCC-ET) process to generate carbon nanomaterials and graphite. With graphite constituting nearly half of an electric car’s battery weight and serving as a critical component of the battery anode, a locally sourced, sustainable solution is vital.

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are another star player in the battery arena, offering many benefits. These tiny, powerful structures provide faster charging and discharging rates, increased energy density, and improved durability. UP Catalyst recognized the environmental toll of traditional CNT production methods, particularly the energy-intensive Carbon Vapor Deposition (CVD) that guzzles a staggering 800 kWh/kg. Moreover, the conventional methods of obtaining graphite often involve mining or fossil fuel-based production.

UP Catalyst took a bold step forward to address these concerns, crafting an eco-friendly and energy-efficient process that leverages CO2, surpassing current production limitations. However, their pursuit of the greenest and purest carbon materials continues, pushing the industry’s innovation boundaries.

The UP Catalyst’s research and development draws inspiration from methods widely used in the aluminium industry. The breakthrough they seek is to guarantee carbon materials with a ppm-level of impurities, a crucial factor in ensuring top-notch energy storage applications.

“The solution’s implementation has certain risks due to its one-of-a-kind nature,” admits Sander Trofimov, Production Manager at UP Catalyst. But risks often accompany remarkable rewards, and UP Catalyst believes the potential is sky-high.

A quantum leap in battery sustainability

If UP Catalyst’s audacious project succeeds, it could herald a new era in battery manufacturing. Replacing conventional graphite with UP Catalyst’s innovative version could yield a remarkable 22% improvement in battery sustainability. This, in turn, ensures a greener future without compromising crucial properties like energy density and capacity.

“As raw material suppliers, we are responsible together with battery producers to make batteries greener,” asserts Einar Karu, CTO at UP Catalyst. “Our aim is to produce affordable, green graphite and CNTs that can lead to superior performance,” he concluded.

The clock is ticking, and the project is set to launch on October 1, 2023, with a two-year timeline until September 30, 2025. UP Catalyst wants to secure the world’s first CO2-negative supply of battery-grade carbon, a groundbreaking feat. The next steps involve establishing their first industrial unit, a testament to their commitment to transforming the battery industry.

The journey may be rife with challenges, but UP Catalyst is determined to break barriers and create a greener world. It could set a new benchmark in battery manufacturing and continue the streak of Estonian-made breakthrough green energy solutions.

Interested in investing in Estonia? Find out more about the country’s energy sector here and book a time via e-Consulting to speak to your personal advisor.

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