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6K Energy and Aqua Metals to build circular supply chain for U.S. lithium-ion battery manufacturing

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The co-located facility is at 6K Energy's PlusCAM site in Jackson, Tennessee. Pixabay

Aqua Metals and 6K Energy plan to create a sustainable circular supply chain in the United States for the critical minerals essential to domestic lithium battery manufacturing. Aqua Metals and 6K Energy have signed a multi-part memorandum of understanding (MOU) covering the scope of the collaboration in the coming years.

This partnership will help enable the nation's goal of establishing a domestic supply chain for clean energy technologies. The co-located facility at 6K Energy's PlusCAM site in Jackson, Tennessee, will be what 6K and Aqua Metals say is the first sustainable circular supply producing low-carbon cathode active materials (CAM) for new batteries using domestically sourced end-of-life batteries and scrap materials from manufacturing partners as feedstock.

"As the world grapples for control over the critical minerals essential for lithium batteries, together with 6K Energy we are building a resilient domestic supply chain for the valuable metals that will power an electrified future," said Steve Cotton, president and CEO of Aqua Metals. "Through our partnership, we will be able to make the best use of these scarce resources, recycling them back into the value chain by creating cathode battery material from recycled content – strengthening U.S. manufacturing capabilities and bolstering resilience to supply chain disruptions as we accelerate the clean energy economy."

The plan outlines a future joint venture to co-locate the full-scale lithium battery recycling facility engineered and operated by Aqua Metals to supply 6K Energy's PlusCAM cathode manufacturing plant. The shared facility will utilize Aqua Metals' Li AquaRefining sustainable recycling technology to convert spent batteries and manufacturing scraps into raw materials for 6K Energy's proprietary UniMelt sustainable CAM manufacturing process – eliminating tens of thousands of tons of carbon pollution and waste from the battery supply chain each year. The MOU includes a proposed supply agreement for recycled materials from Aqua Metals to meet the critical mineral needs of the 13,000 tonnes-per-year PlusCAM facility.

Aqua Metals' patented AquaRefining technology recovers critical metals from spent lithium batteries using electricity in a closed loop, lowering emissions, and reducing landfill waste by 95 percent compared to current battery recycling processes. 6K Energy's UniMelt process is a full-scale microwave plasma production system, delivering lower emissions and reduced capital and operating costs versus current cathode production methods.

PlusCAM will provide a low-cost, ultra-sustainable production of battery material in the U.S. 6K Energy has raised more than $350M, including a $50M grant from the Department of Energy, to fund the buildout and expansion of PlusCAM facilities.

Aqua Metals currently operates a sustainable lithium battery recycling facility at its Li AquaRefining pilot and is also developing a five-acre, 10,000 tonnes-per-year clean metals recycling campus nearby in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center – enough critical material for 50,000 EV batteries each year. Over a decade of battery recycling innovation, Aqua Metals has raised $275 million to support the commercialization of its innovative technology and is applying for government-backed loans and grants to further accelerate commercial-scale deployments.

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