Nanotechnology Engineering alumni aim to make battery recycling a reality

Friday, February 10, 2023
Brendan Smith
Brendan Smith

Dr. Brendan Smith, Nanotechnology Engineering (NE) class of 2013, and Jatin Patil, (NE class of 2018) are collaborating to make battery recycling for Electric Vehicles (EVs) a reality using technology they developed while Patil was pursuing his undergraduate degree.

Following his graduation from Waterloo in 2013, Smith joined the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, where his PhD research focused on making resilient nanofiltration membranes. In 2015 he hired Patil, a 2nd year co-op student to work on the research. During the co-op work term, the pair developed a novel method of scalably making nanoporous silicon. By the end of Patil’s co-op work term, they had submitted two papers for publication and started drafting a patent application. The patent was granted in 2017.

The NE program provided a creative environment for the two researchers to thrive.

Jatin Patel
Jatin Patil

“Being in the NE program allowed me to pursue co-ops in very disparate fields - ranging from catalysis to membrane fabrication to nano / electromechanical systems. This diversity of experiences was undoubtedly shaped by the diversity of learning offered by the program itself,” reflects Patil.

After patenting their breakthrough technology, and completing his PhD at MIT, Smith went on to found SiTration in 2020. Since then, the company has grown to six full-time employees and raised over three million dollars from federal grants, venture capital investment, and strategic partnerships.  SiTration is now a trailblazer in the recovery of critical materials in the lithium-ion battery recycling process.

SiTration’s disruptive filtration membrane technology utilizes an electrified method to separate critical materials such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt from spent EV batteries and scrap manufacturing materials. The process can reduce energy and chemical consumption by up to 90%.

“By replacing the chemical and thermal separation methods used in battery recycling today with an electrified approach, SiTration is unlocking ultra-efficient recovery of materials foundational to a more sustainable future,” says Smith.

Helen Engelhardt
Helen Engelhardt

The demand for battery materials is expected to greatly exceed supply across the board in the next five to ten years. SiTration is poised to sustain the push towards electrification, especially with EVs.

Patil, who is also completing his PhD degree, will be joining Smith’s startup as Head of Product. It is a natural fit as SiTration licensed a patent that originated from Smith and Patil’s research conducted while in the NE undergrad program.

Continuing to pay it forward, Smith has hired current NE co-op student Helen Engelhardt, who is working as a Research and Development Intern at SiTration. Engelhardt will work within several areas of the company’s technology. Those include membrane fabrication in the clean-room at MIT.nano, and testing filter performance separating various ions and compounds from feed streams.

The next step for SiTration is expanding its capacity to engage with prospective clients and partners while also continuing to develop technology and product, toward making efficient battery recycling a reality!