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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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.

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  • Race to Control Battery Tech Underscores Need for Comprehensive Resource Policy 

    Against the backdrop of the ongoing electric vehicle revolution, automakers are increasingly forced to deal with the realities of resource supply.  One of these realities was spelled out in clear terms by a Wall Street Journal report which stated:

    “There’s a Global Race to Control Batteries – and China is Winning.  Chinese companies dominate the cobalt supply chain that begins at mines in Congo.”

    Meanwhile, amidst growing demand for what is one of the key materials underpinning EV technology, the price for Cobalt has almost doubled over the past two years. Realizing the increasingly risk of a “bottleneck in the supply of materials used in the standard power source of the world’s growing fleet of electric vehicles,” automakers are stepping up their efforts to “not only boost the amount of energy batteries can hold using the same amount of raw materials, but also to switch to more abundant metals,” writes Henry Sanderson in a new piece for the Financial Times.

    Sanderson — who had previously outlined some of the R&D efforts currently underway ranging from work on all-solid-state batteries to more conventional efforts including the shift towards batteries that use more Nickel and up to 75 percent less Cobalt — cites consultancy group Wood Mackenzie, which estimates that low-cobalt batteries “will make up the majority of the electric car market by 2025.”

    However, even with a shift to low-Cobalt batteries factored into the equation, demand for Cobalt is still expected to more than double, as zero-Cobalt solid state battery tech is not considered feasible.

    Meanwhile, the current efforts to diversify away from the metal may increase demand for another material – Vanadium. While generally more abundant that Cobalt, new challenges loom large here, too.  As we previously pointed out:

    “It’s a story with a familiar theme for ARPN followers — the co-product challenge:

    According to USGS, Vanadium is at least as plentiful as Nickel and Zinc – at least in terms of its availability in the earth’s crust. However, it rarely occurs in deposits that can be economically mined for the element alone. Between 2009 and 2013, some co-product vanadium production occurred domestically (though not from Bauxite mining for Aluminum), but it has since been suspended. 

    As a result, the United States is currently 100% import dependent for its domestic Vanadium needs – in spite of the fact that ‘domestic resources and secondary recovery are adequate to supply a large portion of domestic needs.’”

    With all the investments poured into research and development, the materials science revolution may well yield the next breakthrough at some point.  However, regardless of which technology will win the day – the race for pole position in the EV technology sector only underscores the need for a comprehensive policy framework that accounts for the ever-changing realities of mineral resource supply and demand over the patchwork approach we have so far witnessed.

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  • Cobalt’s Star Rising Even Further in Light of Breakthrough New Applications?

    Cobalt is a rising star among critical minerals, in large part because of its key role in battery technology.  However, that’s hardly the only reason. The ongoing materials science revolution has produced a new long-term use for Cobalt that may prove to be a technological breakthrough: A California-based company has announced that it has found [...]
  • The U.S. Hunt for Cobalt – a Rising Star Among Critical Minerals – Is On

    “Gold once lured prospectors to the American west – but now it’s cobalt that is sparking a rush,” writes the BBC in a recent feature story about Cobalt, which, as ARPN followers will know, is a “key component in the lithium-ion batteries that power electronic devices and electric cars.”  Once a somewhat obscure metal, Cobalt [...]
  • “Critical Minerals Alaska” – Rising Demand and Supply Side Complications Combine as Catalysts to Establish Domestic Sources of Cobalt

    In his latest installment of “Critical Minerals Alaska” – a feature series for North of 60 Mining News that “investigates Alaska’s potential as a domestic source of minerals deemed critical to the United States,” Shane Lasley takes a closer look at Cobalt, one of the key metals underpinning the current EV technology revolution. Once an [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: CMI Expands Collaborative Research Focus to Include Lithium and Cobalt

    The Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, is expanding its research on tech metals “as rapid growth in electric vehicles drives demand for lithium, cobalt.” According to a recent Ames Lab press release, the Institute will focus on maximizing the efficiency of processing, usage and [...]
  • Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s World Tour Returns to U.S. this May

    Our friends from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence – formidable experts when it comes to battery tech and the mineral resources driving it – are returning to the U.S. in May for another round of their World Tour. This year’s tour will “focus on the supply chains for the next generation of battery technologies,” and seek to [...]
  • Sweden Tosses Hat Into Ring In Race For Materials Underpinning EV Revolution

    As the race for the metals and minerals driving the electric vehicle revolution heats up, and China continues to jockey for pole position, Sweden is tossing its hat into the ring.  According to recent media reports, the Swedish government has earmarked 10 million kronor ( roughly one million Euros) to explore the option of digging [...]
  • 2018 – A Tipping Point For U.S. Resource Policy and Related Industries?

    The following is a guest post by ARPN expert panel member Chris Berry, Founder, House Mountain Partners. His expertise focuses on, but is not limited to, energy metals including Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite, Vanadium and Rare Earths. The Executive Order recently signed by President Trump to prioritize domestic natural resource development couldn’t have come at a [...]
  • Automakers Pledge to Uphold Ethical and Socially Responsible Standards in Materials Sourcing. Where Will the Metals and Minerals Come From?

    Late last month, international automakers made headlines when pledging “to uphold ethical and socially responsible standards in their purchases of minerals for an expected boom in electric vehicle production.” As Reuters reported, a group of 10 car manufacturers have formed an initiative to “jointly identify and address ethical, environmental, human and labor rights issues in [...]

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