Sortera Alloys, the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based company that uses patented sorting technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to produce aluminum packages from shredded automobiles, has received $10 million in funding led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Kirkland, Washington. Sortera says it will use the funding to scale its operations and grow its team.
Sortera, which operates from a 10-acre facility in Fort Wayne, previously received funding from Chrysalix and the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The company is a spin-out from the ARPA-E METALS (Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advances in Light Metal Systems) program and is led by a team with experience in the fields of advanced materials, electronic instrumentation and equipment development.
Sortera says it uses advanced AI-powered image, data analytics and sensors to produce specification aluminum scrap packages for primary and secondary aluminum producers. Its first mass production plant is under development and will be operational in 2022. Sortera says it has been shipping trial truckloads of aluminum feedstock in the form of cast, sheet and extrusions for the past few months from its pilot plant.
The company has more than 25 issued and pending patents and claims to offer a low-cost, scalable and high-throughput solution. Sortera says its AI-powered sorters can upgrade feedstock streams and remove unwanted contaminants. The upgraded materials can then be used to make new products in markets ranging from automotive cast and flat-roll products, building and construction, aerospace and consumer packaging.
“The global waste industry is over $2 trillion, with nearly 90 percent of that heading to the landfill or incinerators,” says Nalin Kumar, Ph.D., founder and president of Sortera Alloys. “The volume of global waste is expected to grow by nearly 70 percent in the next few decades.
“Companies are looking to create products for their customers with lower-carbon materials. At Sortera, we are enabling the domestic production of novel feedstock materials from existing automotive streams [and] at the same time boosting the strength of the circular economy and creating new jobs,” he adds.
Carmichael Roberts of Breakthrough Energy Ventures says, “Sortera is using AI and engineering expertise to uniquely deliver high throughput with high purity in its sorting processes while also keeping costs down. Scrap metal is an excellent place for market entry—aluminum is a $10 billion market alone, and the production of virgin material has huge emission factors. The auto industry, in particular, should be very excited about Sortera's ability to deliver high-purity recycled materials without the cost and negative impact of producing virgin metal feedstocks.”