Mr. Paul Woodward reports
REVIEW AND UPDATE OF TECHNOLOGY FOR 2019
Aether Catalyst Solutions Inc. has provided the following detailed review of the company's 2019 progress toward development and commercialization of its catalysts.
Over 10-times improvement in aging robustness under wet air aging conditions;
Improved lab infrastructure and procedures to yield significantly high throughput of evaluating catalyst formulations;
Developed ability to simulate aging and test protocols used by OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).
Aether is developing catalytic materials for industrial use. The company's first products are catalysts for use in automotive emissions abatement. Aether's catalysts are free of expensive precious metals (platinum, palladium and rhodium). It is estimated that over $20-billion of precious metals (at today's prices) were used in the automotive industry for emissions abatement in 2018. Aether's catalysts are initially to be used in gasoline-powered engines, making up two-thirds of this market. The cost savings accruing to the industry are estimated at approximately 80 per cent -- strong enough to generate significant pull for the technology; indeed, Aether has had great success engaging OEMs.
Going into 2019, Aether had an exciting and promising catalyst with very good unaged performance. However, it was not yet able to perform adequately when subjected to industry-standard aging stressors.
Two thousand nineteen was a transitional year for the company in several important ways that addressed some of its most pressing technical limitations and positioned Aether closer to commercialization.
Detailed highlights, in chronological order, include the following.
First quarter -- new lab and increased evaluation capability:
- Completed the buildout of Aether's new lab, resulting in a facility with much improved flow of sample making, aging and evaluation, leading to a significantly improved throughput of new catalyst formulations, increasing the company's understanding of catalyst failure mechanisms;
Through a thorough investigation into all aspects of its development process, Aether was able to significantly reduce sample-to-sample variability -- crucial in any development process;
Increased testing capability through additional test equipment, which further increased throughput and data generation for understanding the possible hydrocarbon (HC) degradation mechanisms.
Second quarter -- more rapid screening and first advance:
Developed a rapid screening process that allowed for over 50 catalyst variants to be evaluated, dramatically increasing data generation;
In the first of several advances this year, discovered a process change that resulted in a further reduction in sample-to-sample variability and improved HC conversion from 40 per cent to 55 per cent after 16 hours at 900 degrees (Celsius) with wet air aging;
Using advanced measurement/characterization tools such as X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), X-ray diffraction (XRD) and internally generated test data, Aether significantly improved its understanding of the material changes its catalysts undergo during wet air aging;
Converted provisional patent application to formal PCT (Patent Co-operation Treaty) application.
Third quarter -- technological leap, reliable model and further IP (intellectual property):
As part of a continuing development process, Aether identified two independent variables whose manipulation led to a massive improvement in HC conversion aging robustness -- its biggest leap yet. This formulation of the catalyst took HC conversion from 55 per cent after 16 hours of wet aging to 50 per cent after 100 hours of wet aging, introducing the last major stressor to the catalyst (the stressors are 900-degree temperature for 100 hours in the presence of water);
- Developed a degreening process that facilitated a reduction in the temperature at which NOX conversion occurs;
- Built an HC degradation model that explained most of the aging mechanism; this has been helpful in assisting developmental activities -- while not yet definitively proven, the model has become a very useful tool;
- Submitted a provisional patent on its latest catalytic material.
Fourth quarter -- further advances and enhanced testing capabilities:
In another very significant leap, based on advances made in the prior quarter, Aether was able to take the performance of its lead catalyst formulation to HC conversion of 88 per cent at 465 degrees after 100 hours of wet aging at 900 degrees (with both NOX and CO at higher levels);
During the quarter, spent considerable time and resources to develop aging and testing capabilities more in line with those used by the OEMs. To that end, Aether developed a lambda sweep test, which is the industry-standard test to evaluate the sensitivity of the air-to-fuel ratio on conversion rates. Additionally, in consultation with one of the OEMs that Aether is in continuing discussions with, Aether developed a hydrothermal rich/lean cycle aging test. Both tests represented advancements for Aether, as they allow data to be presented in formats familiar to the OEMs;
The most recent catalyst formulation was put through the hydrothermal rich/lean cycle aging test for 100 hours at a temperature of 900 degrees. The conversion rates of HC, CO and NOX were measured during the lambda sweep test. Conversion results were high for all three exhaust gases and will form a good data package for discussion with OEMs and OEM suppliers in 2020.
Over all, Aether's team of engineers and scientists saw an acceleration of development over the year as discovery built upon discovery, leading into what is hoped to be a year where the company can begin to take advantage of business development opportunities that have presented themselves over the last 18 months.
At the start of the year, Aether developed six technical goals to meet by year-end. It is important to note that these technical goals were specifically made to be challenging to ensure that if they were met, the company would be offering a compelling incentive to further engage the OEMs that it has tested with. Over the full year, Aether met five of its six technical goals. The one goal missed was performing the industry-standard four-mode aging test as described by the California Air Resource Board (the rapid aging test or RAT). This goal was missed primarily due to the complexity and cost of test equipment needed to perform the test, which was deemed a lower priority than improving the HC aging robustness. However, the (OEM suggested) hydrothermal rich/lean cycle test is viewed as good surrogate for this test.)
The significant technological developments of 2019 have put Aether in a solid position to start more aggressively engaging the OEMS, and their suppliers, for evaluation of the technology, and ultimately a closer working relationship.
Aether will announce its goals for 2020 in a subsequent news release.
About Aether Catalyst Solutions Inc.
Aether is focused on providing an order-of-magnitude cost reduction in automotive catalytic converter catalysts, while meeting or exceeding government emission standards. Aether is working to quickly advance its technology through rapid screening of new materials directed at enhancing end-of-life conversion levels after accelerated aging. While Aether's primary focus is automotive, other potential applications for this low-cost technology are also being explored.
© 2020 Canjex Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.