science and technology

Deep-tech recycling startup Metastable Materials raises seed funding by Sequoia India’s Surge, Speciale Invest and Theia Ventures

Published: April 4, 2023
  • The deep tech startup is pioneering a world’s first, chemical-free process that addresses challenges faced by existing recycling methods for lithium-ion batteries  
  • Metastable Materials’ mission is to ensure a sufficient supply of lithium to power the circular supply chain for a sustainable tomorrow.
  • Its newly opened urban facility in Bengaluru can process up to 6% of India’s recycling needs for lithium-ion batteriesMetastable Materials, a deep-tech recycling company specialising in lithium-ion batteries, has announced seed funding led by Surge, Sequoia Capital India and Southeast Asia’s rapid scale-up program, which included participation from deep-tech VC Speciale Invest, Theia Ventures and other angels*.  

    Millions of vehicles around the world are equipped with or directly powered by lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, and demand continues to rise rapidly every day. The industry for Li-ion battery recycling, which is today valued at US$4.6 billion, is thus expected to grow at least five times by 2030, as corporations search for a proper way to handle end-of-life Li-ion batteries. Furthermore, many nations – including the EU – plan to introduce regulations to ensure that batteries can be repurposed or recycled at the end of their life. 

    However, current recycling methods to extract and reuse metals from end-of-life Li-ion batteries are plagued by a myriad of challenges. This includes logistical challenges of transporting large Li-ion batteries to recycling facilities, which can be costly due to Lithium’s highly flammable nature and strict regulations around packaging. 

    Efficient metal extraction is also a complicated process that involves disassembly, separation and recovery, and requires significant investments into facilities and engineering, which has been difficult for companies to carry out profitably at scale. 

    Meeting these issues head on, Metastable has developed the world’s first, chemical-free Integrated Carbothermal Reduction™ process for recycling and extracting valuable materials, such as copper, aluminium, cobalt, nickel and lithium from Li-ion batteries. The technology used significantly reduces capital and operational expenditure in comparison to the conventional battery recycling practices, along with a recovery rate of over 90%. 

    “Natural resources are finite and our collective vision of a more sustainable future will depend on our ability to first recycle and second, to do so in a way that is cost efficient, scalable and environmentally friendly. We’re proud to be pioneering a solution that safeguards our future, from providing a sustainable supply of metals for the manufacture of EV batteries to setting new benchmarks for the way metals are recycled, paving the way for new technologies and innovations that will have the power to truly move the needle in fighting climate change,” said founder Shubham Vishvakarma.

    Metastable is also developing storage and packaging solutions to safely move used batteries from consumers to recycling facilities. Current methods in India often do not conform to the highest international standards for storage and transportation, and packaging is primarily made with flammable, unregulated materials. Metastable’s packaging, in contrast, is designed to mitigate fire risks using a multi-layered heat resistant structure, allowing batteries to be transported in bulk safely.

    The startup is scaling up its battery recycling capabilities and operations. In October 2022, Metastable opened a 21,000 sq ft urban mining facility located on the outskirts of Bengaluru. The facility can process 1,500 tonnes of material annually, which accounts for up to 6% of India’s recycling demand for Li-ion batteries.

    To meet its growing operations, the new funding will be channelled into recruitment to support Metastable’s manufacturing and industrial engineering functions, as well as for managing its supply chain and day-to-day operations. 

    “Battery materials are both scarce and expensive, which makes re-mining critical metals from batteries a business necessity. Metastable Materials builds on its founders’ domain and proprietary approach to re-mining batteries that are chemical-free and capital efficient, as a result of low capital and operating expenditure with industry-class yields. We strongly believe re-mining metals from batteries is the path to solving for self-sufficiency of rare metals for India,” said Vishesh Rajaram, Managing Partner, Speciale Invest. 

    “We are thrilled to partner with Metastable Materials on their exciting journey as they build an innovative, scalable and greener process for rare material extraction from electronic waste. The business is excellently positioned to cater to the rapidly growing demand for these recycled materials into batteries for electric vehicles, which forms an important part of the climate tech, decarbonization and circular economy agenda for India and globally,” said Priya Shah, General Partner, Theia Ventures. 

    Metastable Materials was founded in October 2021 in Bengaluru by Manikumar Uppala, Saurav Goyal and Shubham Vishvakarma, who met while studying at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee. Manikumar and Shubham worked together at NBC Bearings by CK Birla Group and specialised in industrial engineering and process engineering respectively. Saurav previously worked at Bristlecone, a Mahindra Group company, and will bring to the table his expertise in supply chain planning.

    *Angel investors: Akshay Singhal, Co-founder & CEO of Log9,  Kartik Hajela, Co-founder & COO of Log9, Archana Priyadershini, Co-founder of fwdSlash Capital and Sanjeev Rangrass, Venture Partner of Unitus Ventures. 


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