Utah company aims to make waves creating lithium-ion batteries
With the electric vehicle market booming, one Utah County company is looking to help the U.S. gain a foothold in the lithium-ion battery business.
According to the International Energy Agency, sales of electric cars hit 6.6 million in 2021 — more than tripling their market share from two years earlier. That growth isn’t projected to slow down anytime soon.
Thanks in part to consumer incentives in President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a report in BloombergNEF predicts that more than half of U.S. car sales will be electric by 2030.
Most electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries, which commonly contain a combination of lithium cobalt oxide, often mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and graphite, mined in Turkey and China.
At Ionic Mineral Technologies, Andre Zeitoun, founder and chief executive officer, oversees his team as they mine and process halloysite, an aluminosilicate clay mineral that can be made into powder and dropped into existing lithium-ion battery production in order to replace graphite.
“We are taking an abundant resource of halloysite, that is U.S.-based material, and we’re using a very innovative approach to convert it to nano-silicon,” Zeitoun said. “Which is a huge unmet market need for the electric vehicle.”
Zeitoun has studied Halloysite and its potential applications for over a decade. The company owns and operates one of the world’s largest deposits of high-purity halloysite located in Eureka, Utah, and processes the mineral at its pilot plant in Vineyard.
“What’s unique about halloysite is that it forms a naturally accusing nano-tube structure,” Zeitoun said. “Because of the uniqueness and the structure and the chemistry of this mineral, this becomes kind of the ideal feedstock material to convert to silicon metal, which the electric vehicle industry is looking for to enable faster-charging vehicles that go longer, that have a longer range.”
The silicon metal produced with halloysite is unique in that it can overcome some of the biggest limitations graphite poses in lithium-ion batteries. Substituting silicon with graphite can improve an EV’s power density, and increase the speed of its charging capabilities.
“Eighty percent of the car can be charged in five minutes,” Zeitoun said. “Once that’s achieved then we’ll see charging stations everywhere, gas stations, because you can be in and out just as quick as it takes to fill a tank of gas.”
Ultimately, Ionic Mineral Technologies’ mission is to become the world’s leading producer of nano-silicon anode powders and critical mineral byproducts for the next generation of advanced lithium-ion batteries.
To help reach this goal, the company is currently constructing a 36,000-square-foot large-scale production facility in Provo, which will be completed by July 2023.
“I think we really have the opportunity to create quite a big business here in Utah,” Zeitoun said.