By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
On December 17, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced the seven winners of Phase II of the Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize. The prize is designed to facilitate innovative solutions to collecting, storing, and transporting discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling. Its goal is to develop processes that have the potential to capture 90 percent of all discarded or spent lithium-based batteries in the United States and reintroduce key materials into the U.S. supply chain. The seven selected prize teams will focus on building industry partnerships to design, simulate, and prototype a proof-of-concept solution. Each Phase II winner will receive a $357,000 cash prize in addition to $100,000 in non-cash vouchers to use at DOE National Laboratories and approved organizations within the American-Made Challenges Network. The winners will also advance to the third and final phase of the prize that entails a pilot validation.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On June 29, 2020, the United States (U.S.) Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) published a request for information (RFI) on challenges and opportunities in the up- and mid-stream critical materials battery supply chains. As demand for critical materials such as lithium and cobalt for the manufacturing of batteries continues to grow, DOE is seeking ways to reduce U.S. dependence on critical materials. According to DOE’s EERE, it will achieve this goal by reducing the amount of critical materials needed for battery production and recycling materials that are already in use. Consequently, the RFI is seeking input on the current state of the battery cathode materials supply chains, as well as opportunities for near-term and long-term research and development (R&D). Responses to the RFI must be submitted by July 31, 2020, and will be considered in the development of the R&D federal strategy.
DOE’s Assistant Secretary for EERE, Daniel R. Simmons, stated that “Innovation in our domestic industries and continued investment by DOE programs will help strengthen our country’s ability to manufacture and recycle these materials, and work toward more robust domestic supply chains.” His statement and the RFI itself are in response to President Donald J. Trumps’ Executive Order 13817, titled “A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.”
On June 9, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the 2017 Green Chemistry Challenge Award (GCCA). We applaud this year’s winners. This is EPA’s 22nd year of using the GCCA to honor green chemistry technologies that spur economic growth, reduce costs, and decrease waste. We are saddened that this very successful voluntary program is slated to be defunded in the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget, which, of course, must be approved by Congress and is unlikely to be in its current form. Those who value the green chemistry program may wish to consider contacting their Senators and Representatives to encourage continued support of this highly successful and important program. It has had outsized benefits for such a modestly funded program.
This year's winners and technologies are:
- Merck & Co., Inc. in Greener Synthetic Pathways - Letermovir: A Case Study in State-of-the-Art Approaches to Sustainable Commercial Manufacturing Processes in the Pharmaceutical Industry
Merck’s approach was to design an efficient synthesis as early as possible in the drug Letermovir’s process development. Using “high-throughput” techniques, Merck was able to find a low-cost, stable, and easily recyclable catalyst along with other process improvements that increase the yield, and reduce the raw material costs by 93 percent, the water usage by 90 percent, and the carbon footprint by 89 percent.
- Amgen Inc. and Bachem in Greener Reaction Conditions - Green Process for Commercial Manufacture of Etelcalcetide Enabled by Improved Technology for Solid Phase Peptide Synthesis
Amgen Inc. worked with Bachem to improve the manufacturing process for the active ingredient in ParsabivTM, a drug that treats secondary hyperparathyroidism in adult patients with chronic kidney disease. By redesigning the peptide manufacturing process to use four optimized stages rather than the original five stages, Amgen and Bachem were able to achieve a 500 percent increase in manufacturing capacity while reducing chemical solvent use by 71 percent, manufacturing operating time by 56 percent, and manufacturing cost by 76 percent.
- The Dow Chemical Company and Papierfabrik August Koehler SE in Designing Greener Chemicals - Breakthrough Sustainable Imaging Technology for Thermal Paper
While there is still not a definitive answer as to whether the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal paper may present risk, Dow and Koehler sought an innovative alternative that not only avoids the need for BPA (or analogs that have similar toxicological properties), but also eliminates some of the drawbacks of thermal paper, notably that exposure to sunlight or other heat sources often destroys the image. Together they developed a three-layer paper. The top layer is an opaque, light-color.When heat is applied in the printing head, the hollow particles that make up that opaque layer collapse and become transparent, showing an underlying dark layer only at those points. The paper is designed to work in existing equipment, so there is no need for retailers to replace equipment.
- UniEnergy Technologies LLC in Small Business - The UniSystemTM: An Advanced Vanadium Redox Flow Battery for Grid-Scale Energy Storage
UniEnergy Technologies, LLC (UET) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) developed and commercialized an advanced vanadium redox flow battery that allows cities and businesses more access to stored energy. The vanadium electrolyte has double the energy density of prior chemistries, and a much broader operating temperature, allowing for a longer lasting battery that can be deployed in nearly any ambient environment on earth. Additionally, the electrolyte, with a chloride-based chemistry complex, is more stable than traditional sulfate-based chemistries, and because it is water-based and does not degrade, the batteries are non-flammable and recyclable.
- Professor Eric J. Schelter of the University of Pennsylvania in Academic - Simple and Efficient Recycling of Rare Earth Elements from Consumer Materials Using Tailored Metal Complexes
Professor Eric Schelter developed a simple, fast, and low-cost technology to help recycle mixtures of rare earth elements (La-Lu, Sc, and Y). These elements are integral to modern technologies, but have a highly energy intensive and waste generating mining, refining, and purification process. Currently, only one percent of these materials are recycled, but Professor Schelter’s group has developed tailored organic compounds that can simply and effectively separate mixtures of these metals. A recent U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant will support further development of this technology to turn these into industrial viable recycling processes.
The GCCA winners were honored on June 12, 2017, at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the 21st Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference.