Developing a Low-Cost Catalyst to Reduce Automotive Costs
This Aether Catalyst Solutions profile is part of a paid investor education campaign.*
Aether Catalyst Solutions Inc. (CSE:ATHR) is a materials science company that has developed a low-cost, high-performance, three-way catalyst that doesn’t contain any of the costly precious metals currently utilized in automotive catalytic converters such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.
A catalytic converter is a legally mandated emission control device that converts toxic by-products from an internal combustion engine into less toxic substances through a chemical catalyzation process. By reducing the cost of a critical emission reduction technology, Aether Catalyst hopes to not only save the auto industry billions of dollars, but also extend emissions control capability to the extraordinarily large number of smaller engines that are in use every day, helping to reduce the overall amount of harmful emissions from all internal combustion engines.
The global catalytic converter market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1 percent from US$42.4 billion in 2018 to US$73.1 billion by 2025, according to Markets and Markets.
Despite the growth projected in the catalytic converter market, analysts including Markets and Markets have acknowledged the potential challenges presented by the fluctuations in precious metals prices, specifically platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The high cost of these materials could present a challenge to manufacturers, increasing the incentives for developing alternatives. “In response to financial constraints, we expect to see an intensification of efforts to reduce the cost of emissions control systems,” said Johnson Matthey in its PGM Market Report for May 2020. Autocatalyst demand accounted for 2,876,000 ounces of platinum, 9,635,000 ounces of palladium and 1,008,000 ounces of rhodium in 2019 according to Johnson Matthey. According to estimates, the commodity cost of these platinum-group metals is approximately US$21 billion.
Aether Catalyst’s converter technology does not include any platinum, palladium, or rhodium, allowing for a potential reduction of 90 percent of material costs involved in the current technology. The company has been in ongoing discussions with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the automotive industry regarding the specifications and characteristics required by its catalyst, and found them to be forthcoming and encouraging, reflecting the consensus that reducing the cost of emissions control is becoming more and more important to the industry.
Prior to December of 2018, Aether Catalyst had conducted its research at the 4D Labs facility, a $65-million research facility located at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. In January 2019, Aether moved to a new, larger, purpose-built lab close to SFU (where it continues to utilize specialized characterization instruments) and has been able to significantly increase the necessary iteration and testing required to improve and refine its low-cost converter technology, which is now in its fourth generation.
Aether Catalyst’s Company Highlights
- Catalytic converter market expected to grow from US$42.4 billion in 2018 to US$73.1 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 8.1 percent
- Aether’s catalyst is made without the use of platinum, palladium, or rhodium
- Aether’s catalyst can be produced at approximately 90 percent cost savings to incumbent catalytic converters
- Aether’s catalyst utilizes simple wash coating methods that are scalable to the high volume and low-cost coating processes currently utilized with incumbent PGM catalysts
- Aether has received considerable funding and support from government sources – almost $500,000 over the last three years in non-dilutive funding
- Aether was nominated by SDTC (Sustainable Development Technology Canada) for the 2018 Global Cleantech 100
Aether Catalyst’s Conversion Technology
Aether Catalyst’s low-cost catalyst for emission abatement is designed to provide the functionality of a traditional catalytic converter while replacing the expensive precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium that drastically inflate the cost of production.
Under the leadership of Chief Operating Officer Greg James and Director Dr. Neil Branda, Aether Catalyst continues to work towards improving its catalyst technology. James, the former chief of engineering at Ballard Power Systems (TSX:BLDP), brings over 25 years of experience bringing new technology to the marketplace. A Canada Research Chair Tier I in Materials Science at Simon Fraser University, Dr. Branda brings a considerable amount of research experience to the team.
With third-party testing data in hand, the company claims it has achieved gas conversion rates of hydrocarbons (HC), nitrous oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO) that are similar to current catalytic converter technology.
Aether Catalyst’s fourth-generation emission abatement technology is applicable to all gasoline internal combustion engines including cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, as well as many other small engines. The company has developed a wash-coated catalyst that is easily scalable, allowing for a low-cost coating process that can be applied to existing substrates utilized in incumbent catalytic converters. As regulations regarding fuel emissions continue to become more stringent and ubiquitous around the world, cost of the catalyst becomes a larger issue for the OEMs. Aether is hopeful it can develop its low-cost solution to not only save the industry money, but also to enable the further adoption of catalytic converter technology, which will have a significant effect on global emissions.
Aether has overcome many of the hurdles that have prevented base metal catalysts from being adopted by the auto industry; specifically, base metal catalysts are challenged by high temperatures utilized in accelerated aging and the presence of 10 percent H2O in both the aging and testing environments. Aether’s catalysts are now at the point where they can withstand aging at 900 degrees Celsius for 100 hours in the presence of 10 percent H2O. Moving forward, Aether’s primary challenge is to improve the reaction time of its catalyst to the lean-rich-lean oscillation of an automobile’s emissions.
In April 2019 Aether Catalyst filed a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) for a patent. The company also submitted an additional provisional patent application in October 2019. Aether is currently in discussions with several OEMs regarding how best to improve the company’s technology for use in the automotive industry. The Company’s near-term goal is to attain a performance threshold that will secure a partner within the automotive industry that will result in commercial development and implementation of Aether’s catalyst.
Aether Catalyst’s Management Team
Paul Woodward, President & Director
Mr. Woodward is a former investment banker with over 30 years of experience in capital markets and corporate finance and is an investor in early-stage technology companies. Since March 2012 he has been the President of Conation Capital Corp., Aether’s controlling shareholder. Since April 2018 he has served as a director, and since December 2018 as Chief Executive Officer and President, of Advanced Proteome Therapeutics Corp. (APC-V). He is the Chief Financial Officer and a director of Railtown AI Technologies Inc. Mr. Woodward is also a director of numerous private companies in which Conation has invested. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Econ) from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.
Derek Lew, Chief Financial Officer, Secretary & Director
Mr. Lew is currently the President, Chief Executive Officer, and a director of GrowthWorks Capital and the President and Chief Executive Officer and/or a director of certain managed funds and operating subsidiaries of GrowthWorks Capital. Mr. Lew is also a Partner with Initio Group, a Vancouver-based early-stage angel investment firm and is a lawyer with experience in the areas of corporate, commercial, and real estate law. He has also been a director of Mobio Technologies Inc., a TSXV-listed company since November 2012. He is also an active member of the technology start-up community in Vancouver. Derek holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Alberta and is a member of the Law Society of British Columbia.
Jason Moreau, Director
Mr. Moreau has an extensive background in technology and public markets. He founded and built a SaaS (software as a service company) for 15 years that was listed on the TSX Venture Exchange until its sale to a NASDAQ listed company in 2011. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer (since January 2015) and Co-Founder of Survale Inc., a rapidly growing SaaS recruiting and employee engagement analytics platform. Mr. Moreau studied Computer Science Technology at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.
Neil Branda, Director
Dr. Branda is currently a Professor of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University and a Canada Research Chair Tier I in Materials Science. He is also the Executive Director of 4D LABS, Simon Fraser University’s $65 million research facility for new materials and nanoscale devices, and Chief Technology Officer of SWITCH Materials, Inc., a company he founded to commercialize his technology. Dr. Branda has been named as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Recipients and a Steacie Fellow owing to his involvement in academic research and innovation platforms. Dr. Branda received his B.Sc. from the University of Toronto and his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at Université Louis Pasteur, then joined the faculty at the University of Alberta before moving to Simon Fraser University in 2001.
Greg James, Chief Operations Officer
Mr. James has over 25 years of experience bringing new technologies to the market. In his 20 years at Ballard Power Systems, he rose to the position of Chief of Engineering, where his team was responsible for translating market requirements into product requirements while directing the research goals for future products. Mr. James holds a B.A.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Victoria.
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