NEO Battery Materials Ltd. (TSXV:NBM; OTCQB: NBMFF) is a Canada-based battery technology company focused on developing silicon anode material for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EV), electronics and energy storage systems.The company’s patented silicon anode technology, called NBMSiDE®, utilizes an energy-efficient, one-step nano coating process to i) enable ultra-fast charging, ii) increase EV driving range by greater than 20 percent, and iii) manufacture more than 70 percent cheaper compared to competitors. NBMSiDE® coats strong, durable nanomaterials on the surface of the silicon particles to effectively resolve silicon’s volume expansion problem, enabling reliability and high performance in EV lithium-ion batteries.
Why Silicon and Global Market Growth
EV batteries are composed of four major parts – cathode, anode, separator and electrolyte. Highly discussed battery metals like lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese are synthesized to form the cathode material. On the anode side, graphite has long been the go-to material since the commercialization of lithium-ion batteries, but major issues, especially with respect to low capacity and slow charging, are impeding the growth of EV adoption globally.
Silicon is recognized as the solely available material to resolve graphite’s deficiencies, offering the allure of high capacity and faster charging times. Given the urgency to integrate silicon as a critical component in EV batteries, the global silicon anode market is expected to grow rapidly from around US$0.4 billion in 2022 to US$28.7 billion in 2032, representing a compound annual growth rate of 54 percent. However, for all its advantages, silicon has its own set of challenges.
During the charge and discharge cycle, silicon tends to expand more than 300 percent in volume, and stabilizing the material has been a significant challenge to the industry. Conventional approaches to mitigate the volume expansion problem of silicon anodes are expensive and unscalable due to energy-intensive processes and high-cost input feedstocks. Most of the companies using silicon anode rely on costly manufacturing processes to circumvent the issue, resulting in a price point that is approximately eight times (US$80 per kilogram) more expensive than graphite anode (US$10 per kg).
NEO Battery Materials is a Canada-based battery materials technology company focused on developing silicon anode materials for lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles (EV), electronics and energy storage systems.The company’s patented technology, called NBMSiDE®, offers cost-effective, longer-running and ultra-fast-charging batteries compared to existing state-of-the-art graphite anode materials. NBM is aiming to achieve the 1,000-mile battery for EVs using its silicon anode materials.NBM is positioning itself as a low-cost, high-performance silicon anode material supplier for EV lithium-ion batteries. NBM’s ability to manufacture silicon anode materials economically and efficiently is a vital point of differentiation from existing competitors.The company is planning to construct commercial plants both in Canada and South Korea to manufacture NBMSiDE®. Further, NBM is aiming to build additional plants in the U.S. and Europe to establish itself as a global top 10 silicon anode supplier in the EV battery industry.
Key Technology: NBMSiDE®
NBM claims its patented silicon anode technology, called NBMSiDE®, could manage and resolve the volume expansion problem by coating the silicon particles with mechanically durable nanomaterials such as elastic polymers and carbon nanotubes. There are currently eight patents issued and pending for this technology across various jurisdictions.
NBM’s proprietary one-step process enables substantially lower production costs than other silicon anode materials. NBM simultaneously mixes and nanocoats the silicon precursor, additives and nano coating materials to manufacture the final product. Unlike competitors that manufacture in multi-steps at high temperatures of >1,500 degrees Celsius and/or in vacuum systems, NBMSiDE® is produced at room temperature and pressure, realizing significant energy savings and reducing carbon emissions. NBM’s ability to economically manufacture silicon anode materials is a vital point of differentiation from existing companies.
NEO Battery Materials’ innovative NBMSiDE® places the company in an ideal position to leverage this exponential market growth, led by a management team with a proven track record in the global battery industry.
NBMSiDE® is paving the way for cost-effective, longer-running and ultra-fast-charging batteries, which can drive down the EV costs and ultimately increase EV adoption. The company aims to achieve the 1,000-mile battery for EVs using its silicon anode materials.
NBM has further optimized its one-step process to achieve consistent, uniform nano coating capabilities – a key factor for high performance and quality control. Uniform nano coating layers reinforced silicon’s structural durability, demonstrating over a 70 percent increase in battery cycle life improvement. NBMSiDE® also retains more than 70 percent higher initial battery capacity (measured in mAh/g) compared to competitors and has realized 5-minute ultra-fast charging in tests.
Successful development and key benefits of NBMSiDE® has caught the interest of downstream users. Having signed more than 60 non-disclosure agreements, which include global battery cell manufacturers and EV automakers, NBM is prioritizing to ink multiple milestone agreements such as joint developments, collaborations and offtakes. To date, the company is conducting more than 20 active material evaluations with global NDA parties to attain such value-creating milestones.
Due to technological breakthroughs, downstream customers’ demand for NBMSiDE® has experienced an uptick. To alleviate bottlenecks and order backlogs, NBM is relocating to an expansion facility with larger manufacturing and testing equipment. The company plans to hire additional research engineers to increase the overall R&D productivity for commercialization.
Commercialization will be achieved through constructing mass production plants in Canada and South Korea. With an initial capacity of 240 tons per year, the final plant capacity is estimated to reach 5,000 tons per year. Subsequently, NBM aims to extend its global presence by establishing additional commercial plants in the U.S. and Europe through joint ventures.
With the initial capacity, NBM anticipates an initial revenue of US$12 million representing a supply capacity for 80,000 to 160,000 EVs. At full capacity, revenue generation could increase to US$250 million. NBM plans to build at least three commercial plants by 2030, giving it a capacity of 15,000 tons per year to position itself as a global top 10 silicon anode supplier.
Spencer Huh – Director, President and CEO
Spencer Huh has more than 25 years of financial and operational experience in Canada and Korea, with expertise in financial operations, strategy, performance management, and business planning. In the early part of his career, he worked as an investment advisor with large companies such as Hanwha Securities, TD Canada Trust, and BMO Nesbitt Burns. Since 2012, Huh has worked with numerous private and publicly listed companies in Korea and Canada, including mining, medical device, and high-tech companies. He has played an integral role in the establishment, acquisition, and financing for these companies.
S. R. Hwang – Director, Chief Operating Officer and SVP
S. R. Hwang has over 30 years of experience working for Samsung SDI (sixth largest global battery manufacturer), serving as the executive director, chief of purchasing and advisor until 2018. His responsibilities included managing the supply chain, procurement planning and advanced business development. During his time with Samsung SDI, Hwang accumulated a vast network and information pipeline within the lithium-ion battery industry. He has a deep understanding of business development and trade capabilities, as well as specialized knowledge in raw materials, such as cobalt, nickel, and aluminum.
Dr. S. G. Kim – Chief Technology Officer
Dr. S. G. Kim served as the executive vice-president and head of R&D of Hanwha Solutions’ Advanced Materials Division, a multibillion-dollar South Korean conglomerate. Kim led Hanwha Solutions to nearly double new product sales and expand the core technology portfolio by leading several value-added projects for global automotive, aerospace and electronics companies. Prior to joining Hanwha Solutions, Kim held tenure as the global R&D leader at Momentive Performance Materials, the second-largest global manufacturer of silicon-based products. Kim received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering and applied chemistry from the University of Toronto, Canada. He has published high-impact journals in the field of polymers and nanocomposites, and retains 15 patents related to polymers, coatings and silicon-based materials.
Dr. J. H. Woo – Chief Science Officer
Dr. J. H. Woo has worked as a scientific research engineer at General Motors Global R&D Centre, researching nanostructured silicon anode materials with artificial solid electrolyte interphase (SEI), lithium-ion battery performance optimization, and electrode material synthesis. His research expertise focuses on the synthesis of silicon anode materials for high-energy batteries in long-range EVs and on interfacial engineering for sulfide-based all-solid-state batteries (ASSB). Receiving his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, Woo has published influential literature in international journals, such as in Advanced Materials, that advanced the field of silicon anodes and ASSBs. His high-impact research has led to a major battery materials NASDAQ-listed company licensing Woo’s patent related to ASSBs.
Dr. D. M. Whang – Lead Scientific Advisor
Dr. D. M. Whang’s research expertise lies in the field of fabrication and manufacturing of low-dimensional nanomaterials, especially graphene, semiconductor nanowires, and porous nanostructures for applications in EV lithium-ion batteries, fuel cells and various energy storage applications. Whang owns more than 50 patents of which two-thirds are co-owned with Samsung Electronics, and he has also co-authored more than 177 peer-reviewed publications with over 13,850 citations. Whang is a professor at the School of Advanced Materials Science & Engineering and Advanced Institute of Nanotechnology at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU). He received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in 1997, and prior to joining SKKU, he was a senior research fellow at Harvard University.
This article was written in collaboration with Couloir Capital Ltd.