Canada’s sodium chlorate industry is the largest in the world, with revenues of over $350 million per year. Sodium chlorate is exported to the United States and is used by Canada’s $8.8-billion-per-year paper manufacturing industry to bleach its paper products. These industries are challenged by the strong Canadian dollar, declining demand for newsprint, and by the rising prices of energy.
The cost of electricity represents more than 45% of the production cost of sodium chlorate, which is made by an electrochemical process. One way to combat rising electricity prices is to conserve energy by designing more efficient production methods. Specifically, Hydro-Québec’s research institute, IREQ, has conducted research over the past decade in developing new cathodes that could save substantial amounts of power for the industry, estimated at $6 million annually in Quebec alone.
MEEIR Technologie Inc. has been partnering with IREQ to commercialise these electrodes. IREQ has invested over $1 million in research and development to further develop them.
Researchers from IREQ accessed the CNBC to understand their new cathode material. Specifically, they used the neutron beamlines to precisely locate atomic positions in a nanocrystalline alloy, Ti2RuFeOx. Better understanding of this material has led to modifications of the chemical composition of the alloy to enhance its performance.
Since April 2007, MEEIR Technologie Inc. has been partnering with IREQ to commercialise these electrodes. IREQ has invested over $1 million in research and development to further develop them. Manufacturing facilities for producing industry-sized prototype cathodes have been established. MEEIR Technologie Inc. has been working with the major sodium chlorate producers in Canada to run prototype production cells, to demonstrate improved performance compared to production cells currently in use. MEEIR has now completed a few years of demo operations in production environments—an essential step in demonstrating the value of this improved technology to the market place.