Lyten's 3D Graphene Material Could Be a Sustainability Game Changer

Lyten Batteries
Credit: Lyten


Every vehicle impacts the environment. Where EVs and their batteries differ from gas-powered vehicles is that most of that sourcing happens once. The minerals are pulled out of the ground for a battery before building the vehicle. Meanwhile, gas vehicles require a lifetime of drilling. 

That's not to say that sourcing minerals for electric vehicles isn't without its issues. The mining and supply chain of minerals like cobalt and rare-Earth magnets have rightfully come under fire for issues (including involving human rights violations). This has forced the industry to think differently about what it means to be sustainable. 

Enter Lyten, the Northern California company is working towards creating what it calls a "supermaterial" to create 3D Graphene. A material that can be altered at the molecular level for use in a myriad of applications. But it's also looking at the entire supply chain. 

Lyten uses a carbon capture process that uses methane ( a greenhouse gas) and converts it into a new form of graphene with impressive properties. This "three-dimensional" graphene can used to make items more lightweight, increase the strength of items, increase conductivity, and increase porosity and permeability all of which is done by tuning certain molecules. 

The first items the company is going after are a lithium-sulfur battery and light-weighting plastics. The battery would have a higher power density without the need for cobalt, nickel, magnesium, and graphite. The technology is impressive enough for automaker Stellantis to take notice and invest in what could be a game changer in the battery space. 

Creating plastics that could be potentially 50 percent lighter, regardless of the battery technology, is a huge win for not just automakers but other industries as well. A lighter vehicle whether it be ground or sky-based uses less energy. That means increased range for EVs and better fuel economy of gasoline-based systems. 

To create its graphene, Lyten intends to partner with companies in the future that capture methane at places like dumps, refineries, near livestock, or any place where methane can be captured. Dureing this pilot phase, Lyten is using natural gas directly from the grid. The same natural gas that is used for stoves and other household items. 

"The model that's accepted on, is we're either helping provide the financing or really, the optimal idea for us is we will provide the offtake that supports somebody to go finance to go build out the infrastructure to sequester that methane and put it onto the grid," Lyten's chief sustainability officer, Keith Norman told SAE during a recent interview. 

In other words, Lyten won't be building these facilities themselves. Financially it doesn't make sense to try to accomplish that at scale. 

Instead, Lyten will have contracts to "purchase" the methane added to the grid by these facilities. It's essentially like buying offset credits. These partners are reducing the use of natural gas with Lyten's financial support. If the business case is viable, more capture facilities will pop up and the use of fossil fuels on the grid will decrease. 

"What we're seeing is if you really want to drive the carbon footprint down through this ecosystem, is that almost everybody has to step into their supply chain and form partnerships and potentially shared investments," Norman said. 

"This is a fundamental change in how we think about the supply chains," the sustainability office continued. 

Like many in the sustainability world, making huge changes to how we produce items comes with difficulty in finding qualified people. Developing a lithium-sulfur battery requires those with chemistry experience who can wrap their heads around the new battery and those in the lithium-ion battery world. Both of which are in short supply. 

There are also not enough people who have the experience to scale a gigafactory. It's a relatively new skill set. Plus, there's the supply chain. Not only does someone need to understand supply chains, they need to work to make it better by asking the right questions and having a holistic view of not just Lyten, but the industry at large. 

Reducing our impact on the environment requires research and development beyond that of the latest piece of technology. It also requires people to look at the system that supports that technology. An overall view that includes looking at every piece of equipment that goes into a car, plane, e-bike, or bus and then finding a way to make it better. It requires new skills and companies out there, they're hungry for the people that have them. 

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