Jaipur-based energy start-up Cancrie has begun producing nanomaterials using agricultural wastes for use in batteries and capacitors boosting their energy efficiency. 

“We have a patented process that takes organic waste and transforms it into nanocarbons. It is then added to batteries and capacitors to increase their energy and power efficiency,” said the company’s chief operations officer (COO) Mahi Singh. 

The start-up has experimented with agri-wastes, municipal wastes, and paper-based wastes, including coconut fibres, shells, human hair, human sludge, sugarcane bagasse, walnut shells, chicken poop, and even municipal sludge, she told businessline in an email interaction. 

Advantages of agri-wastes

“Currently, we are focusing on agri-waste for two reasons. The first is commercial feasibility. There’s a huge availability of the waste and we get superior quality carbon from it as well. The second is that ash content and several components of this waste  produce good quality carbon,”  said Singh, who co-founded the firm with Akshay Jain, the Chief Executive Officer.

Mahi Singh, COO and co-founder, Cancrie

Mahi Singh, COO and co-founder, Cancrie

Currently, the company,  named after the planet founded by NASA in 2004,  has two sources that have a capacity to supply 20 tonnes of wastes a day. The waste is sorted, cleaned and ground to a particular size after which it goes through Cancrie’s energy efficient patented process to transform into advanced nanocarbons.

“We are producing advanced material from waste to power up the energy storage devices. Our material is energy efficient and easy to adopt,” Singh said, adding that it aimed at the lead-acid battery industry. 

Optimising parameters

Essentially, Cancrie, through its patented process, tweaks the chemical structure at molecular level. “There are five important parameters we are working on. We make them so specific for energy storage devices that our material will work very well. By optimising these five parameters, electrolytes can flow smoothly  and therefore the battery delivers higher performance,” she said.

Making the batteries more sustainable and increasing their efficiency also means the overall planet is made much more sustainable, said the company’s COO.

“Making batteries more efficient means you would need fewer batteries as you increase the life cycle of these batteries. Similarly, for some battery chemistries, we are replacing the cathode. So, by reducing the usage of metals like lead and lithium, it means that less mining is required for these materials,” said Singh.  

The company’s material increases the life of the battery.  “We’ve already documented more than 50 per cent increase in battery life that too at 80 per cent depth of discharge,” she claimed. Inclusion of Cancrie’s nanocarbon in a battery by replacing carbon black increases the active material utilisation. 

Reducing battery costs

“In a typical case, the addition of our nanocarbon does not increase the costing of this battery but rather reduces the costing by at least ₹50 on a battery costing ₹8,000,” said Singh.

Cancrie enhanced battery provides higher mileage per day in EVs  compared to the conventional batteries in the market. This translates into more trips for, say an e-rickshaw driver, and more income in turn. 

“With just 0.1-1 per cent addition in the electrode active material, we  increase its energy efficiency, charge acceptance and life cycle. We have  solved permanent-sulfation and water-loss issues and thereby increased the life cycle with our carbon. Our material results in lower maintenance cost of the battery,” the company’s COO said. 

Cancrie aims to cater to the demand for carbons in energy storage as it is rising because of rapid adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy to achieve the net zero emission goals, the COO said, adding that India is its first market.

Substitute for lithium-ion

The company is up with a second product which has been developed for lithium-ion. “We are replacing the critical and rare material with our sustainable material which helps in increasing energy density by 125 per cent and a very high power density that results in supporting fast charging in 2- and 3-wheelers, aids regenerative braking and helps in peak power acceleration,” said Singh.  

Being a carbon solution company, Cancrie has proof of concept in sodium ion and redox flow. It is also developing products for zinc gel and fuel cell. 

On what inspired the founders, Singh said her co-founder Akshay Jain, an alumni of National University,  investigated the novel synthesis of advanced material from waste biomass as part of his Ph.D studies and tested them for several applications.  

“At Cancrie, we understand that ‘one’s trash is another’s treasure’,’’ she said. Launched in 2020 as a bootstrapped firm, Cancrie Pvt Ltd has then managed to get funding from the Government’s NIDHI-EIR programme followed by Techstars, ACT For Environment, UNIDO FLCTD (Facility for Low Carbon Technology Deployment (FLCTD) Innovation Challenge) and Big Birac besides winning many awards and grants.  

Commercialisation in 2024

“Techstars gave us $120,000 in convertible, and it is the only equity money that we have received,” said Singh, adding that in terms of future funding,  it is currently raising money to set up its commercial plant, expand its team and get more customers on board. It also plans to do industrial trials for advanced cell chemistry.  

With its commercial scale up plant coming next year, Cancrie’s carbon net carbon mitigation would be around 630 tonnes of CO2e. and would abate around 200 tonnes of agri-waste in a time span of 2 years,” she said.

Cancrie has won UNIDO FLCTD innovation challenge and also received Startup India Seed Fund, besides winning several other laurels. 

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