Summit Nanotech using miniscule technology to effect big change
Many people talk about making the world a better place; Amanda Hall is doing it.
Hall is the co-founder and CEO of Summit Nanotech, a company in Alberta using advances in nanotechnology to create and implement clean solutions for industrial processes.
“Our mission is to green up the energy industry by using nanoscience,” said Hall. “When you look at processes through the scope of quantum physics — small-scale physics — it can solve a lot of the problems we see in industry today.”
Hall is a geophysicist by trade, with eight years of experience in the oil and gas industry, four in the mining industry and an additional four spent in an industrial laboratory at a sugar refinery.
Those experiences, coupled with her 12 years of post-secondary education, put her in a prime position to launch Summit Nanotech with co-founder Jason Hendrick 10 months ago.
“I needed to stop waiting for people to make the changes I wanted to see,” she said. “I decided I wanted to take on that role myself.”
Summit Nanotech uses nanotechnology — quantum mechanical technology that deals with materials at the atomic level — to address some of the world’s most pressing energy and environmental concerns. Currently, their focus is on developing the greenest lithium-ion resource extraction method in the world.
Sustainable lithium extraction
According to Hall, the demand for lithium is about to skyrocket. Their new extraction method can be used to create an inexpensive and sustainable source of lithium for batteries used in portable devices, mobile gadgets and electric vehicles — the driving force behind the demand.
“Battery storage will play a huge part in having a renewable energy future,” said Hall.
Traditionally, extracting lithium from brine water requires high energy and chemically intensive processes. Hall said they want to use nanoscience to perform the extraction process more gently and efficiently, to reduce environmental contaminants and greenhouse gases.
“At the end of the day, our process is different from traditional extraction methods, because we use less energy, fewer chemicals, no fresh water and we have higher yield at the end, so our operation costs per tonne are better,” said Hall.
Hall said while this project is still in the development phase, many companies are interested in their technology, which will mainly be provided as a clean extraction solution to mines who are already processing lithium.
This technology can also be beneficial to oil and gas companies, said Hall, who is currently working with a few other companies in Alberta to map lithium resources in the province.
Since brine water is often a by-product of pumped oil, lithium extraction can also function as a secondary revenue stream for oil and gas. In turn, these oil and gas companies can provide a resource for battery technology that supports renewable energy storage.
The future of nanotechnology
Although less than a year old, Summit Nanotech is recognized as a leader in the space.
Hall, identified as a top female innovator in Canada, was named a finalist in the Women in Cleantech Challenge in September 2018. Summit Nanotech was awarded $800,000 and the opportunity to work closely with advisors and researchers from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and MaRS, a Toronto-based business incubator.
“Being chosen as a finalist in the Women in Cleantech Challenge early on really helped put wheels to the company, opened doors and exposed us to great opportunities,” said Hall. “I hope this doesn’t sound bold, but it just feels like we are unstoppable right now.”
Once Summit Nanotech achieves sustainable lithium extraction, they plan to use the technology to go after other metal ions and work closely with water purification companies.
“This is a platform technology so we can pivot and employ it in many different fields,” said Hall. “We are just getting started.”