Metalysis and disrupting the metals production industry
Metalysis is transforming the metals production industry through its patented disruptive technology. The company could truly change the way the world produces metals, alloys and even rare earth metals in the future. Metalysis is a clean, green technology with the potential to substantially lower the cost of metals production across a vast multibillion dollar market.
In short, the Metalysis process to simplify the metal powder production while reducing costs. This is achieved through the metal remaining in a solid state with zero melting taking place – the powder is produced directly from the metal oxide. The environmental benefits come from significantly lower CO2 emissions due to the use of calcium chloride which contains the toxicity of “table” salt and is recyclable for re use.
“The lightbulb moment occurred at Cambridge university over 10 years ago,” says Dion Vaughan, CEO of Metalysis
“Many oxides and beneficiated ores could be reduced directly to metal powders in an electro chemical process. It was a very important discovery in a scientific sense.”
In the decade that has followed, Metalysis has been developing this discovery and process into a full-scale industrial process with a business case.
“We’re ate the rapid point of commercialisation, as we are in the process of developing key partnerships to help push the company forward,” says Vaughan.
Vaughan believes that the USP of Metalysis is the fact that the process does not melt anything. Through Metalysis, metals production is done through solid state – the component changes on the inside but it does not melt. The process operates around 800 degrees Celsius which is significantly lower than the usual 1500 degrees Celsius and above used in larger companies.
“The amount of energy that is used in creating the same end product is significantly less. We are using less energy and operating with a substantially lower output of Carbon Dioxide,” says Vaughan.
The process also doesn’t use any other chemicals, whereas large scale mining companies may use strong acids in the process, presenting environmental concern.
“The major inputs to our process are electricity and carbon gas, using ceramic consumables and calcium chloride - none of which is environmentally detrimental. Metalysis can produce high value mass market materials much more quickly and with the key benefits of an improved sustainability.”
Metalysis has its clear business case and Vaughan admits that the small company based in the UK plans to become a globally dominant company in the field of solid state metal processing.
“We are a technology company, the way to create value is to valorise our intellectual property through partnerships and licences. The way we move forward is ventures into partnerships and joint ventures into sales of our intellectual properties through those licences,” says Vaughan.
It is through partnerships that the company key can become a globally dominant metal processing company. Two key partnerships have been with Iluka Resources, the second producer of global titanium dioxide products and global giant BHP Billiton.
“The involvement of very large branded business evidences the potential of our story, so that’s a big plus in investment terms,” says Vaughan.
“Perhaps equally important is that they have elements of engineering and commercial skills which are synergistic with what we are doing. If a story like ours is as good as we believe it to be then the big companies should be investing and the good news is – they are.”
Through the partnership with Iluka, Metalysis seeks to remove the total number of processing steps in getting a beach sand resource to a value added product that can be used in an engineering environment.
“A process like ours can add considerable value. By implication, whether its logistically or technically, a process like ours can add considerable value. If you’re doing more with less than the process becomes inherently more sustainable and this is attractive to a business because you’re saving money.”
One method of removing those industrial processes is through Metalysis’ answer to the Kroll Process. The Kroll process is a widely used industrial process to produce metallic titanium that has been used since the 1950’s and is an extremely expensive and is very intensive of energy and time.
“In simple terms, Metalysis produces a metal powder directly and it collapses the number of processing steps compared to Kroll, which only produces a semi-finished product. Our process is cheaper, more sustainable and produces an end product far more quickly,” says Vaughan.
Moving forward, for Metalysis to attract new partnerships and investment, it is important that large companies are clear what the business case for the company is.
“The first thing is that we offer a low cost route to producing value added metal products, which of course is extremely interesting to many large players. We are strategically focused on titanium and the production of titanium powder – Iluka resources is the second largest titanium producer so it’s clear where the synergies are there,” he says.
“For the foreseeable procedure, low cost production is the key driving force of engagement for strategic partners. Looking further than that, a process like ours which can operate across the periodic table and put together alloys and combinations of elements that have yet to be produced potentially will create new opportunity areas and change demand patterns for elements and resources that people are just about getting their heads around. Cost reduction of things we know today and things that are new that may drive different forces of demand is the next stage of the Metalysis journey.”
Metalysis is primarily a technology company and technology over the last two decades has become more and more of a major discussion point across all industries. Vaughan believes that this increase of emphasis on technology and innovation, plays directly into Metalysis’ hands.
“Technology didn’t really play the primary role in thinking at the top of resource companies traditionally. In recent years, big and small resource companies are looking more carefully at what technology can do to shift their businesses. Technology is far more at the top of corporate decisions than it was when Metalysis first started out and I think that can only be described as a positive thing.” He says.
“In the not too distant future it’s not hard to imagine boxes like Metalysis which could produce metal powders directly from feed stocks being operated and manned by robots. This is a trend you can already see, particularly with increased automation within the mining industry,”
Metalysis, despite already taking large steps in disrupting the metals production industry, is still in its infancy, but Vaughan promises that this is not the last we will hear.
“In simple terms, Metalysis produces a metal powder directly and it collapses the number of processing steps compared to Kroll, which only produces a semi-finished product. Our process is cheaper, more sustainable and produces an end product far more quickly,”
“Metalysis can be one of the great stories of metallurgical process, we haven’t had the chance to show it yet, but we will. Where we are based in the UK has a history of innovation in steel making and people are always looking for the next big innovation and believe me, Metalysis will be the next one.
“The metals process and industry in the UK is in a dire straight and we believe that we are a great success story to come out of the industry. We are a company that’s going places.”
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Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech
Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production
ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.
The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.
The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).
The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.
The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.
ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.
ELYSIS technology at a glance:
- The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
- The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
- In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
- ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.
Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.
ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.
Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.
Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”
Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”