Element Zero, an Australia-based green materials platform company, announced Wednesday that it has raised $10 million in seed funding led by Playground Global, an early-stage venture capital firm based in the United States.

The firm said in a statement that it will use the funding to grow research and development (R&D), engineering, and project development teams and scale the development of a pilot iron plant.

Based in Perth and the north of Western Australia, adjacent to the largest iron ore ports in the world responsible for exporting nearly 55 percent of the world’s seaborne iron ore supply, Element Zero plans to develop five million tons per year of iron ore feed, producing around 2.7 million tons of high purity iron.

“Our processing platform will, for the first time, allow cost-effective and scalable production of carbon-free metals crucial to the iron and steel and critical metals industries,

“Support from Playground Global goes way beyond financial investment, and we are already in deep discussions about developing green iron and green silicon value chains in the United States,” said Michael Masterman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Element Zero.

According to him, the firm is also working with major iron ore miners and iron and steel companies globally.

Masterman was the Former Chief Financial Officer and Chief Investment Officer of Fortescue Future Industries.

Meanwhile, Peter Barrett, Co-Founder and General Partner at Playground Global, has joined the company’s board of directors.

“Element Zero will help transform Western Australia from the world’s mine into the world’s foundry, dramatically reducing carbon emissions in the process,” said Barrett.

“Australia is poised to become a leader in resilient and sustainable global prosperity – its natural wealth in minerals and renewable energy blended with innovation in electrochemistry and new materials will cement its leadership in the energy transformation,

“Element Zero is a major catalyst in this shift and the Pilbara region in the north of Western Australia stands as the premier location globally to showcase the company’s potential,” he added.

Element Zero is a green materials platform company working towards zero-carbon iron and steel and other future-facing metal production.

The company has developed a novel approach to cost-effectively convert metal ores, such as iron, nickel, and other future-facing materials, to pure metals with zero carbon emissions.

The modular approach of the Element Zero process aims to address 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions from iron and steelmaking.

The firm is developing a portfolio of projects to accelerate market adoption, the first of which will be located in the north of Western Australia, the world’s largest source and holder of iron ore reserves.

The low energy consumption and the ability to operate using intermittent renewable energy underpins the company’s capability to reduce carbon emissions on a global scale.

It is noted that Element Zero has created a low-temperature mineral processing platform that utilizes renewable energy to convert iron ore to iron.

This non-aqueous electrochemical process allows Element Zero to process the full spectrum of iron ores; this includes the core 95 percent of Australian and Brazilian global trade in iron ore.

Currently, lower grade iron ore cannot be processed using hydrogen-fed direct iron reduction or other lower carbon processing technologies.

The technology has been tested successfully on iron ore, nickel, and other future facing metals.

The lower temperature also allows Element Zero to run this process on intermittent renewables like wind, solar, and hydropower.

It is also noted that the current Element Zero prototype is capable of producing 100 kg of zero-carbon iron per day while offering superior product purity – a testimony of the team’s capabilities and the simplicity and scalability of the process itself.

Most notably, Element Zero has achieved this milestone in 18 months, while proponents of other electrochemical technologies spent nearly a decade reaching a similar scale.

The firm has also completed a detailed engineering design for one metric ton per day and is in the midst of a procurement and manufacturing process while a 100 kg per day prototype is being tested and optimized using iron ore feed from major iron ore producers.

The firm also aims for the next scale-up to be completed and commissioned by end of 2024.

According to the statement, the production of iron, steel, and other metals is an energy and carbon-intensive process, with steel production accounting for over 30 percent of carbon emissions from materials and more than 8 percent of global carbon emissions alone.

With demand for these materials expected to double by 2050, there is a clear and urgent need to decarbonize.

However, current approaches in this sector are energy-intensive and can only use very high-grade iron ore in their process; they cannot use renewable energy sources to power their plants due to the high temperature required.

Thus, Element Zero’s platform will also serve as a cost-effective approach for decarbonizing heavy metals.

As the price of high-grade iron ore continues to rise, Element Zero said it will also be able to process low-grade iron ore, which is widely accessible.

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