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Tellurium: from solid-state to generators

Metal Tech News - April 1, 2024

First Tellurium's partnerships promise a safer solid-state technology ready to replace lithium-ion batteries, and a hardy thermoelectric generator.

First Tellurium's strategic partners have made headway in the production of two exciting products – a safer lithium-tellurium battery manufactured in partnership with Fenix Advanced Materials and a new tellurium-based thermoelectric generator capable of withstanding temperature extremes while in operation.

"This is another key and developing part of the First Tellurium story," said First Tellurium President and CEO Tyrone Docherty. "We are uniquely positioned amongst junior mining companies, not only because we are focused on tellurium, but also because we are becoming a tellurium-based technology company. In addition to the lithium-battery with Fenix, we are also bringing our tellurium-based thermoelectric generator to market and planning to supply tellurium to the solar industry."

The lithium-tellurium battery

Fenix Advanced Materials is a cleantech producer of ultra-high purity metals, including tellurium, antimony, indium, and cadmium, which are produced at its lab and plant in Trail, British Columbia.

Fenix CEO Don Freschi recently presented an update on the development of a solid-state lithium-tellurium battery. Built out of years of research and over C$1 million (US$740,000) of development capital, its battery could be in commercial production within the year.

First Tellurium

A lithium-tellurium battery being developed by Fenix Advanced Materials in collaboration with UBC Okanagan could be in commercial production within the year.

Fenix is advancing its solid-state battery, developed in partnership with University of British Columbia, Okanagan, to produce a compact design with higher charging capacity and a battery life up to four times longer than lithium-ion batteries, with no chance of catching fire.

"We had to make these batteries safe," said Freschi in a recent presentation. "So, we started playing around with tellurium, which started working well with a lithium anode. Then we focused on a tellurium-sulfur cathode because tellurium and lithium have the highest theoretical capacity for (electrical) storage. We're making that system very safe."

Though lithium-ion battery-based fires in electric cars are rare, the number is growing worldwide alongside increasing sales, as well as the batteries' use in electronics. According to Toronto Fire Services, the number of lithium-ion battery-related fires nearly doubled in 2023.

The Wall Street Journal reported in early March that fire departments nationwide have been ill-prepared to react fast enough to these types of toxic, rapidly burning chemical fires. Blazes are being ignited or exacerbated by poor-quality batteries in everything from phones, e-bikes, and scooters to power tools and vape pens.

Fires can be ignited or intensified by thermal runaway, a phenomenon by which the chemical composition of lithium-ion batteries causes a catastrophic chain reaction. The New York Times has reported the death of a young journalist caused by an e-bike battery – the year's first death of this kind in New York, following over 250 Li-ion fires and 18 deaths in 2023.

You can view Freschi's solid-state battery video presentation here.

The thermoelectric generator

First Tellurium's new thermoelectric generator prototype demonstrates it can run in very high heat – proven by a torch burning at 1,800 degrees Celsius applied directly to the module surface.

Developed by First Tellurium's 51%-owned thermoelectric-focused research and development company, PyroDelta Energy, the generator's ability to withstand temperature extremes far higher than conventional thermoelectric devices is its key advantage.

"We are looking at lucrative markets for the device where it can be used in both hot and cold temperature extremes," said Docherty. "A primary market for us currently is in automotive applications as a thermoelectric radiator, generating electricity from the heat differential of the hot liquid going through the thermoelectric pipe while air cools it from the outside."

Click image to watch video showing generator's ability to withstand high heat while in operation.

PyroDelta is presently building a thermoelectric radiator with a 1-kilowatt capacity for vehicle retrofit. Electricity generated by a pipe radiator could be made to power a conventional automobile's electrical devices, saving fuel while making an alternator obsolete.

First Tellurium's business model is twofold: to explore responsibly and leverage diverse partnerships to generate value and revenue through mineral discovery, project development and generation, sustainable exploration in Indigenous territory in alliances with Indigenous peoples, NGOs, governments, and leading metals buyers.

With the Klondike tellurium-gold property in Colorado and the polymetallic Deer Horn Project in British Columbia, First Tellurium has placed itself at the forefront of a future of conscientious, diversified mineral exploration.


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