June 1, 2023: Gopher Resource has joined a US government-backed consortium to find new metals processing methods that reduce waste and increase recovery of usable materials.
The lead battery recycler, which announced the move on May 22, said the consortium has already received more than $15 million in congressional funding.
More than $5 million has been secured for the seven projects Gopher will be facilitating — focused on greenhouse gas reduction, critical metals recovery, and waste valorization/minimization.
The first project, using advanced heat transfer technology from the solar energy industry to recover waste heat during the recycling process, is already underway.
Gopher wants to commercialize the technology, which it says represented an industry first for the novel technique.
For the second project, Gopher is working with the University of Minnesota Natural Resource Research Institute in Duluth, and a group of local partners to study the use of charcoal from biomass as an alternative to fossil fuels.
That project’s goal is to create a sustainable supply chain that would reduce the net CO2 impact of Gopher’s scope 1 direct GHG emissions (such as those made while running boilers and vehicles) by up to 30% and eventually help other recyclers to reduce their GHG impact.
CTO Joseph Grogan worked with the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts during the appropriations process to outline the benefits of the initiative to Congress.
“The issues of supply chain security and circularity had unanimous support from everyone we talked to when setting up this consortium,” Grogan said.
“When our work is complete, we expect that these technologies will be available to the commercial market and will play an important role in developing a low-carbon and diverse economy.”
Future projects will focus on advancing the fundamentals of critical metals recovery and waste valorization/minimization, including finding new product uses for slag and recovering acid from batteries.
The consortium initiative, which includes five industry members and seven US and international universities, follows a 2021 executive order by president Joe Biden for the Department of Defense to assess and combat supply chain risks for critical minerals and materials. It falls under the Materials Recovery Technologies for Defense Supply Resiliency, run through Army Research Labs.
In April, Gopher won BCI’s Innovation Award for its development of a Slag Cleaning and Recovery of Useful Metals (SCRUM) Process, which the company claims can reduce its solid waste footprint by 99%.