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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Welcome to the “Ion Age”? The Ongoing Rise of Battery Technology

    Unless you’ve spent the last few years under a rock, you know that battery technology is the new black. With a new detailed “briefing” feature, The Guardian even goes as far as ringing in the “Ion Age” – a play on lithium-ion battery technology, which continues to make headlines.

    Writers Adam Vaughan and Samuel Gibbs explain:

    “In a world increasingly anxious about climate change, the surge in the generation of renewable energy over the past 20 years offers a sliver of hope. But the variable nature of wind and solar power means that storing energy until consumers need it has become the next big challenge. And so, large-scale battery installations are springing up across electricity grids around the world, to make them more flexible. In 2017, more than 1GW of energy storage capacity was added around the world – a record, yes, but still a drop in the ocean of global energy demand.”

    Looking at some of the top-line developments for grid storage, home batteries and EV batteries, the piece outlines the state of current battery technology and gives a glimpse into the future. While the materials science revolution will continue to yield research breakthroughs, they will take some time. Vaughan and Gibbs quote Prof. Paul Shearing, the British Royal Academy of Engineering’s chair in emerging battery technologies who says: “The next 10 years are going to continue to be lithium-ion dominated. It’s taken a long time to get to this productivity and technological maturity level. For anything to catch up will take a while.”

    In 2019, Lithium-ion technology and the materials underpinning it continues to be a space to watch – and our friends at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence are doing a fine job of keeping tabs (see for example this Visual Capitalist infographic using Benchmark data).

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  • Jadarite and the Materials Science Revolution – “Kryptonite” to Alleviate Mineral Supply Concerns?

    In 2007, a new mineral found in Serbia made headlines around the world. “Kryptonite Discovered in Mine” wrote the BBC about the discovery of a material the chemical formula of which – sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide – happened to match the one of the famed kryptonite stolen by Lex Luthor from a museum in the movie “Superman Returns.”

    Dr. Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London’s Natural History Museum, whose help researchers enlisted when they found themselves unable to match their discovery with anything scientifically-known, told the BBC he was “shocked to discover this formula was already referenced in the literature – albeit literary fiction,” and said:

    “The new mineral does not contain fluorine (which it does in the film) and is white rather than green but, in all other respects, the chemistry matches that for the rock containing kryptonite.”

    As Jadarite has nothing to do with the real element Krypton, an colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas often used in fluorescent lamps, the mineral could not be called “kryptonite.” Instead, Jadarite, which contains Boron and Lithium, both of which are known to followers of ARPN for a number of applications, received its official name thanks to the geographic location of its discovery, the  Jadar Valley.

    The reason why most people will not have heard of the mineral is that Serbia is the only place in the world where Jadarite has been found – and to date, it has not been commercially developed.

    Courtesy of the ongoing materials science revolution, which yields research breakthroughs on a daily basis, this may soon change, however. As Mining Review Africa reports, researchers at Rio Tinto’s Technical Development Centre in Bundoora outside of Melbourne, Australia, are working to develop a new chemical procedure to process the material.  A pilot processing plant has been housed within a large shipping container, to allow it to be deployed to the mine site in Serbia.

    Against the backdrop of the current EV battery technology fueling demand for Lithium, these efforts, if successful, could help alleviate mineral supply concerns in the long run.

    While recent stories about an oversupply have caused Lithium prices to slide, analysts believe that the fundamentals for Lithium are strong and long-term demand will shore up again. As Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Andrew Miller recently told Reuters:

    “The demand for lithium isn’t really in question, it’s just a matter of when that demand really kicks in. (…) You just have to look at the number of battery factories that are being built around lithium-ion technology.” 

    As for Borates, while arguably considered the less “sexy” component in the Jadarite mix, fundamentals may be changing here, too.  As Chris Cann recently noted for Mining Journal, while the borates space has “historically, closely tracked global GDP numbers as the ability of the world’s population to buy more household products has driven the use of boric acid, (…), Borates are now linked to two areas of potentially strong growth.” 

    The two areas he references are the traditional application in agriculture/household, as well as the lesser-known use of Borates in electronics, “where Boron-laden permanent magnets are widely consumed, including as the most commonly used magnets for hybrid and electric vehicles.” 

    The bottom line is this – with advances in materials science disrupting and fundamentally altering the supply and demand picture for metals and minerals on a regular basis, the time to devise a comprehensive mineral resource strategy that accounts for these fast-paced changes has come.  Our nation’s competitiveness and national security depends on it.

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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, [...]
  • Lithium – Challenges and Opportunities Underscore Need for Domestic Resource Policy Overhaul

    In an interview with InvestingNews.com, Simon Moores, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s managing director and a member of the ARPN panel of experts, discusses challenges relating to Lithium – one of the key materials underpinning EV battery technology. Moores says that big challenges still lie in bringing new supply to the market, but the situation is not [...]
  • Automakers turn to U.S. Market as Potential Source of Lithium

    We’ve said it before, EV battery technology is the new black – and if the metals and minerals fueling this technology are not yet on your radar, you’ve clearly missed the memo.  Even the oil industry is coming to grips with this new reality. As our friends from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence report: “For the first [...]
  • Supply Chain Timelines Warrant Comprehensive Policy Approach – A Look at Lithium

    In case you haven’t noticed, EV battery technology is the new black. With Lithium being one of the key metals driving this technology, our friends at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence have looked at the material’s supply chain – and the time it takes to develop the respective components of it. As Simon Moores, managing director at [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Lithium – A Material “Coming of Age” is Case in Point for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    As we have outlined, last month’s executive order on critical minerals could have far-reaching implications for our national security and economic wellbeing.  If you needed a case in point – look no further than Lithium. One of the hottest commodities of the day, Lithium, as ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral [...]

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