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Move Over, Lithium and Cobalt, Graphite and Graphene are About to Take Center Stage – Courtesy of the Ongoing Materials Science Revolution

Earlier this week, we pointed to what we called the “new kid on the block” in battery tech – Vanadium.  It appears that what held true for music, is true in this industry as well – new kids on the block arrive in groups.

Now, all puns aside – as Molly Lempriere writes for Mining-Technology.com, “much has been made of battery minerals, in particular lithium and cobalt. But graphite, one of three naturally occurring carbons on Earth, is often overlooked.” And with Graphite, comes its derivative, Graphene.

While Graphite has indeed been flying under the radar, this may change, soon. With as much as 40 times the amount of Graphite in a Lithium-Ion battery as Lithium, demand for the Graphite may increase by an estimated 200% by 2020.  Add to that the fact that super-material Graphene, which is derived from Graphite, is now making an entry into the battery tech field, and demand may take off even more. Writes Lempriere:

“Over the past eight years, an increasing number of potential uses for graphene have been explored, including its use in supercapacitors and as a membrane for filtration.

Graphene is capable of transferring electricity 140 times faster than lithium, while being 100 times lighter than aluminium. This means it could increase the power density of a standard Li-ion battery by 45%.”

As Lempriere outlines, a lack of standardization has so far held back the commercialization of Graphene. With the first Graphene characterization service launched in the United Kingdom in July of this year, this barrier may have been removed, and “a clear framework” could “ease sales of the commodity by ensuring purchase agreements are fair for both buyers ad sellers.”

Meanwhile, the ongoing revolution in materials science is continuing to yield improvements in the processing of Graphite, thus making the material earn its stripes as a “critical mineral” – a designation the Graphite has earned in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

According to USGS:

“Advances in thermal technology and acid-leaching techniques that enable the production of higher purity graphite powders are likely to lead to development of new applications for graphite in high-technology fields. Such innovative refining techniques have enabled the use of improved graphite in carbon-graphite composites, electronics, foils, friction materials, and specialty lubricant applications. Flexible graphite product lines, such as graphoil (a thin graphite cloth), are likely to be the fastest growing market. Large-scale fuel-cell applications are being developed that could consume as much graphite as all other uses combined.”

If these trend lines continue – and a look at the neck-breaking speed of the materials science revolution tells us there is a very good chance they will – the bottom line is that if Graphite and Graphene are not yet on your radar, they should be.