Resurgence Startup ExPost Awarded $8M from DOE in Bid to Improve Battery Recycling

ExPost Technology is backed by a team of leading researchers, including battery expert Shirley Meng from the University of Chicago, seen here discussing her work on batteries while standing near a glove box at Argonne National Laboratory.

ExPost Technology, a participant in Cohort 1 of Resurgence, has been awarded $8 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to support development of an advanced mobile machinery system for pre-processing consumer electronics and batteries.

The startup’s patent-pending process – Purification-Regeneration Integrated Materials Engineering, or PRIME – removes impurities from recycled lithium battery materials to enable reuse. The DOE grant will help support development of the first step in this: preprocessing batteries in a way that there is no fire hazard or leaking of toxic materials.

“To properly recycle batteries we want to deploy a system that can mitigate the risks not only from fire but from the chemicals inside the batteries,” said Weikang Li, ExPost chief technology officer. “It’s quite exciting that we get this chance from DOE.”

The funding will enable ExPost to expand its team and make connections with different companies in order to set up the system at recycling centers as the startup looks to scale the technology.

“With this grant, we aim to demonstrate improved recycling techniques that really tackle the high-cost issue and don’t trigger extra environmental concerns,” said Zheng Chen, cofounder of ExPost and professor of nanoengineering at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), where the team first met.

Li previously worked as a post-doc in the lab of Shirley Meng, who was the Zable Endowed Chair Professor in Energy Technologies at UCSD before her current role as a professor of molecular engineering at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. She also serves as the chief scientist of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science (ACCESS) at Argonne National Laboratory. At ExPost, she brings all this experience to her role as a scientific advisor.

Meng’s research group, the Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion, will support the R&D work for battery electrolyte handling and extraction, providing scientific support to the project through a subaward.

Specifically, Meng will guide postdocs and students in performing hands-on work to validate and improve the battery recycling process, improving safety and environmental friendliness. “This is critical to a better and safer environment and contributes to a more robust supply chain of critical materials for domestic battery manufacturing,” explained Li, noting that Meng’s research group has a track record of developing industry-relevant tools and methods to improve battery technology.

“The UChicago team is excited to work with ExPost on some of the toughest challenges in battery recycling and upcycling. We will collaborate closely to do advanced characterization on the recycled anode and cathode materials, ensuring their quality for battery re-manufacturing,” said Meng. “We hope to achieve true circularity and sustainability for the lithium-ion battery, reducing its cost and carbon footprint.”

To design a better recycling process requires expertise in battery design, but also in chemicals and materials, noted Li speaking to the collective knowledge of the ExPost team. In addition to UCSD and UChicago, the startup also benefits from collaborations with Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Akron. Other partners include Underwriter Laboratories and Carbon Critical. “All of us teamed together will make a success of this project,” Li said.

The award is part of a $125 million funding program to increase consumer participation in battery recycling programs, improve the economics of consumer battery recycling, and help establish collection programs. The Federal Consortium for Advanced Batteries (FCAB) National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries has set a goal of achieving 90% recycling of consumer content by 2030.

// The Resurgence cleantech accelerator is powered by Deep Tech Ventures at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in partnership with the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. Participating startups gain access to business training and technical advisement, premier facilities, industry mentors, student talent, and venture capital, as well as additional funding opportunities.

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