Sortera’s technology was originally funded by ARPA-E with the METALS program in 2013. ARPA-E’s METALS program, short for “Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advances in Light Metal Systems,” aims to find cost-effective and energy-efficient manufacturing techniques to process and recycle metals for lightweight vehicles and aircraft. Processing light metals such as aluminum, titanium, and magnesium more efficiently would enable competition with incumbent structural metals like steel to manufacture vehicles and aircraft that meet demanding fuel efficiency standards without compromising performance or safety.

Primary production and recycling of light metals such as aluminum, magnesium, and titanium is energy intensive and expensive while resulting in significant carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. METALS projects focus on sorting and recycling light metals, an inefficient process that is presently performed by hand. Automating light metal scrap sorting techniques so it can be integrated with a high efficiency system would transform light metal recycling. Developing advanced technologies for manufacturing and recycling light metals more efficiently would enable widespread use of light metals in vehicles and aircraft, substantially reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from the transportation sector.

Potential Impact: If successful, the development of advanced technologies to manufacture and recycle light metals cost effectively will make lightweight vehicles and aircraft more affordable while consuming substantially less energy.

Security: Light-weighting vehicles to improve fuel efficiency could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign fossil fuel resources used to power vehicles and aircraft.

Environment: Utilizing light metals to manufacture vehicles and aircraft decreases their weight, reducing overall fuel consumption and resulting CO2 emissions.

Economy: Reducing light metal processing costs compared to incumbent structural metals such as steel enables the cost-effective development and operation of lightweight vehicles and aircraft.