Tag Archives: Northern Graphite

A ‘graphite today, graphene tomorrow’ philosophy from Focus Graphite

Focus Graphite, a Canadian company with the tag line ‘Think Graphite today, Think Graphene tomorrow’, is making a bit of splash this month (April 2013) with its announcement of three deals (two joint ventures and the commissioning of their pilot plant) and it’s only April 17.

The most recent is the pilot plant announcement, from Focus Graphite’s Apr. 17, 2013 press release,

Focus Graphite Inc. (TSX-V:FMS)(OTCQX:FCSMF)(FRANKFURT:FKC) (“Focus” or the “Company”) is pleased to report the commissioning of its pilot plant and the start-up of circuit testing for the production of high-grade graphite concentrates from the Company’s wholly-owned Lac Knife, Québec graphite project.

The principal objectives of the pilot plant testwork are to confirm the results from Phase II bench scale Locked Cycle Tests (LCT)*; to assess the technical viability and operational performance of the processing plant design; to generate tailings for environmental testing, and; to produce a range of graphite raw materials for customer assessments and for further upgrading.

The Lac Knife project pilot plant was designed and built and is being operated by SGS Canada Inc. (“SGS”) in Lakefield, Ontario. The testing is expected to last 4-6 weeks.

….

The highlights of those tests conducted by SGS confirmed:-       The average amount of graphite flake recovered from the core samples in the Phase II LCT increased to 92.2% compared with a recovery of 84.7% graphite flake in the Phase I LCT;

-       The proportion of large flakes (+80 mesh) in the graphite concentrates ranged between 35% and 58%;

-       The carbon content of graphite concentrates produced from the four (4) composites averaged 96.6 %C, including the fine flake fraction (-200 mesh), a 4.6% increase over Phase I LCT completed in mid-2012.

Final results for Phase II LCT including for the two composite drill core samples of massive graphite mineralisation are pending.

* A locked cycle test is a repetitive batch flotation test conducted to assess flow sheet design. It is the preferred method for arriving at a metallurgical projection from laboratory testing. The final cycles of the test are designed to simulate a continuous, stable flotation circuit.

There’s also the announcement of a joint venture between Grafoid (a company where, I believe, 40% is owned by Focus Graphite) with the University of Waterloo, from the Apr. 17, 2013 news item on Azonano,

Focus Graphite Inc. on behalf of Grafoid Inc. (“Grafoid”) is pleased to announce the signing of a two-year R&D agreement between Grafoid Inc. and the University of Waterloo to investigate and develop a graphene-based composite for electrochemical energy storage for the automotive and/or portable electronics sectors.

Gary Economo, President and CEO of Focus Graphite Inc. and Grafoid Inc., said the objective of the agreement is to research and develop patentable applications using Grafoid’s unique investment which derives graphene from raw, graphite ore to target specialty high value graphene derivatives ranging from sulfur graphene to nanoporous graphene foam.

“Today’s announcement marks Grafoid’s fifth publicly declared graphene development project with a major academic or corporate institution, and the third related directly to a next generation green technology or renewable energy development project,” Mr. Economo said.

It follows R&D partnering projects announced with Rutgers University’s AMIPP, CVD Equipment Corporation, with Hydro-Quebec’s research institute, IREQ, and with British Columbia-based CapTherm Systems, an advanced thermal management technologies developer and producer.

Focus Graphite’s Apr. 16, 2013 press release, which originated the news item on Azonano, provides some context for the intense worldwide interest in graphene and the business imperatives,

Alternative Energy & Graphene:

The quest for alternative energy sources is one of the most important and exciting challenges facing science and technology in the 21st century. Environmentally-friendly, efficient and sustainable energy generation and usage have become large efforts for advancing human societal needs.  Graphene is a pure form of carbon with powerful characteristics which can bring about success in portable, stationary and transportation applications in high energy demanding areas in which electrochemical energy storage and conversion devices such as batteries, fuel cells and electrochemical supercapacitors  are the necessary devices.

Electrochemical Supercapacitors:

Supercapacitors, a zero-emission energy storage system, have a number of high-impact characteristics, such as fast charging, long charge-discharge cycles and broad operating temperature ranges, currently used or heavily researched in hybrid or electrical vehicles, electronics, aircrafts, and smart grids for energy storage. The US Department of Energy has assigned the same importance to supercapacitors and batteries. There is much research looking at combining electrochemical supercapacitors with battery systems or fuel cells.

Fuel Cells:

A fuel cell is a zero-emission source of power, and the only byproduct of a fuel cell is water. Some fuel cells use natural gas or hydrocarbons as fuel, but even those produce far less emissions than conventional sources. As a result, fuel cells eliminate or at least vastly reduce the pollution and greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, and since they are also quiet in operation, they also reduce noise pollution. Fuel cells are more efficient than combustion engines as they generate electricity electrochemically. Since they can produce electricity onsite, the waste heat produced can also be used for heating purposes. Small fuel cells are already replacing batteries in portable products.

Toyota is planning to launch fuel cell cars in 2015, and has licensed its fuel cell vehicle technology to Germany’s BMW AG. BMW will use the technology to build a prototype vehicle by 2015, with plans for a market release around 2020.

By 2020, market penetration could rise as high as 1.2 million fuel cell vehicles, which would represent 7.6% of the total U.S. automotive market. Other fuel cell end users are fork lift and mining industries which continuously add profits to this growing industry.

Proton or polymer exchange membranes (PEM) have become the dominant fuel cell technology in the automotive market.

The U.S. Department of Energy has set fuel cell performance standards for 2015. As of today, no technologies under development have been able to meet the DOE’s  targets for performance and cost.

As I am from British Columbia and it was the first joint venture deal signed in April, here’s a bit more from Focus Graphite’s Apr. 9, 2013 press release,

Focus Graphite Inc. (TSX-V:FMS)(OTCQX:FCSMF)(FRANKFURT:FKC) on behalf of Grafoid Inc., announced today Grafoid’s joint venture development agreement with Coquitlam, British Columbia-based CapTherm Systems Inc. to develop and commercialize next generation, multiphase thermal management systems for electric vehicle (EV) battery and light emitting diode (LED) technologies.

CapTherm Systems Inc – Progressive Thermal Management is a thermal management/cooling company specializing in personal computer, server, LED, and electric vehicle cooling systems. It develops and commercializes proprietary, next-generation high-power electronics cooling technologies.

Its multiphase cooling technologies represent the core of its products that harness the power of latent heat from vaporization.

Under the terms of the agreement, Grafoid Inc., a company invested in the production of high-energy graphene and the development of graphene industrial applications will supply both materials and its science for adapting graphene to CapTherm’s existing EV and LED cooling systems.

Focus Graphite is a Canadian company, you can find more information on their website and the same for Grafoid and SGS Canada, and CapTherm Systems.

I have previously mentioned Focus Graphite in a Nov. 27, 2012 posting about their deal with Hydro Québec’s research institute, IREQ. I have also mentioned graphite mining in Canada with regard to the Northern Graphite Corporation and its Bissett Creek mine (my July 25, 2011 posting and my Feb. 6, 2012 posting). Apparently, Canada has high quality, large graphic flakes.

Hydro-Québec, graphite, and lithium-ion batteries

While Dexter Johnson at Nanoclast blog writes about an investigation into why the storage capacity of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries degrades in his Nov. 26, 2012 posting (Newly Developed Live Nanoscale Imaging Technique Promises Improvement in Li-ion Batteries), Hydro-Québec and Grafoid Inc. have signed a development deal for the next generation of lithium iron phosphate materials to be combined with graphene for next generation rechargeable batteries. From the Nov. 27, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

The 50-50 collaborative agreement sets out terms with the objective of creating patentable inventions by combining graphene, supplied by Grafoid, with Hydro-Québec’s patented lithium iron phosphate technologies.

Two key, specific commercial target markets – the rechargeable automobile battery sectors and batteries for mobile electronic devices used in smartphones, computing tablets and laptop computers – were identified in the agreement.

Hydro-Québec will study Grafoid’s graphene conductivity, electrochemical performance and its effects in electrode formulations, electrolyte and separator optimizations. Detailed characterizations of Grafoid’s supplied materials will be undertaken at IREQ’s cutting edge facilities using its advanced electron microscopy, spectrographic and other in-house technologies.

Hydro-Québec will also supply lithium iron phosphate materials and its electrochemistry know how which it acquired under license from famed American inventor Dr. John Goodenough.

The Nov. 26, 2012 news release from Focus Graphite, which originated the news item, provides additional detail about the various principles in the deal,

About Focus Graphite

Focus Graphite Inc. is an emerging mid-tier junior mining development company, a technology solutions supplier and a business innovator. Focus is the owner of the Lac Knife graphite deposit located in the Côte-Nord region of northeastern Québec. The Lac Knife project hosts a NI 43-101 compliant Measured and Indicated mineral resource of 4.972 Mt grading 15.7% carbon as crystalline graphite with an additional Inferred mineral resource of 3.000 Mt grading 15.6% crystalline graphite  Focus’ goal is to assume an industry leadership position by becoming a low-cost producer of technology-grade graphite. On October 29th, 2012 the Company released the results of a Preliminary Economic Analysis (“PEA”) of the Lac Knife project which demonstrates that the project has robust economics and excellent potential to become a profitable producer of graphite.  As a technology-oriented enterprise with a view to building long-term, sustainable shareholder value, Focus Graphite is also investing in the development of graphene applications and patents through Grafoid Inc.

About Grafoid Inc.

Grafoid, Inc. is a privately held Canadian corporation investing in graphene applications and economically scalable production processes for graphene and graphene derivatives from raw, unprocessed, graphite ore. Focus Graphite Inc., (TSX-V: FMS; OTCQX: FCSMF; FSE: FKC) holds a 40% interest in Grafoid Inc. [emphasis mine]

About IREQ

Hydro-Québec’s research institute, IREQ, is a global leader in the development of advanced materials for battery manufacturing and creates leading edge processes from its state of the art facilities. IREQ holds more than 100 patent rights and has issued over 40 licenses for battery materials to some of the world’s most successful battery manufacturers and materials suppliers. Its areas of expertise include energy storage and IREQ is a lead partner with private sector companies in Québec to build EV and HEV charging stations in support of its technology developments. Its material development contributions are helping to develop safe, high-performance lithium ion batteries that can be charged more quickly and a greater number of times. IREQ promotes open innovation and partners with private firms, universities, government agencies and research centers in Québec and abroad. Its partnerships allow IREQ to develop, industrialize and market technologies resulting from those innovation projects.

About Hydro-Québec

Hydro-Québec is Canada’s largest electricity producer among the world’s largest hydroelectric power producers and a public utility that generates, transmits and distributes electricity. Its sole shareholder is the Québec government. It primarily exploits renewable generating options, in particular hydropower, and supports the development of wind energy through purchases from independent power producers. Its research institute, IREQ, conducts R&D in energy efficiency, energy storage and other energy-related fields. Hydro-Québec invests more than $100 million per year in research.

Here’s one last bit I want to highlight from the Focus Graphite news release,

“Commercially, and ultimately, our technology development partnership with Hydro-Québec aims to produce high capacity, LFP-graphene batteries with ultra short charging times and longer recyclable lifetimes,” Mr. Economo said [Gary Economo, President and Chief Executive Officer of both Grafoid Inc. and Focus Graphite].

He said the parties chose to focus their collaboration on LFP-graphene batteries and materials because of their short-term-to-market potential.

In light of Dexter’s very informative posting about Li-ion batteries and the investigation into why the storage capatcity degrades, I find this Hydro-Québec/Grafoid Inc. development provides insight into the relationship between scientific research and business and insight into the risks as the various groups compete to bring products to market or to improve those products such that they come to dominate the market.

One last comment, graphite flakes are also mined in Ontario as per both my July 25, 2011 posting and my Feb. 6, 2012 posting about Northern Graphite Corporation and its Bissett Creek mine.

Canada’s contribution to graphene research: big graphite flakes

Northern Graphite, a graphite flake mining company in Ontario, has just signed an agreement with Grafen Chemical Industries (based in Turkey). From the Feb. 4, 2012 news item,

Northern Graphite Corporation has announced that it has agreed to supply its +48 mesh and +32 mesh extra large flake graphite to Grafen Chemical Industries [GCI] for graphene research and has also agreed to enter into a cooperation agreement to develop intellectual property rights. Northern will retain a 50% interest in the North American patent rights to any products and processes developed by Grafen. [emphases mine]

I wonder if this is a new trend or simply indicative of my ignorance but this is the first time I heard of a mining company negotiating for intellectual property rights as part of a deal.

At any rate, I last wrote about Northern Graphite July 25, 2011 when the company announced that a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences had successfully made graphene with the ‘extra-large’ graphite flakes that have been found in Ontario.

Here’s what makes these Ontario graphite flakes so interesting (from my July 25, 2011 posting),

The tests indicated that graphene made from Northern’s jumbo flake is superior to Chinese powder and large flake graphite in terms of size, higher electrical conductivity, lower resistance and greater transparency.

As for Grafen’s use of the flakes,

Grafen has developed a novel fabrication method allowing it to synthesize graphene of excellent quality and with considerable yield. Its graphene production process is a highly modified implementation of the conventional graphite oxide manufacturing technique and eliminates known major drawbacks such as extreme disruption of crystal structure of precursor graphite causing low product qualities of electrical conductivity, mechanical performance etc.

Grafen is testing its process at the lab/pilot plant scale level and is optimizing and improving the process by employing different raw materials and formulations. Grafen recognizes that Northern’s +32 and +48 mesh large flake, high carbon graphite will be an excellent choice for large area graphene preparation and intends to adapt them to its process. In a near future Grafen plans to scale-up its graphene production process to provide products to the research industry that will eventually lead to commercial scale production.

The news item provides some insight into the worldwide chase to develop graphene and why graphite is so important,

Graphite is one of only two naturally occurring forms of carbon, the other being diamonds. A graphite flake is much like a deck of cards, it consists of many thin layers stacked one on top of the other with weak bonds holding them together. Delaminating these layers to the lowest common denominator results in a one atom thick sheet of carbon with the carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern. This is graphene.

Graphene was first isolated by scientists at the University of Manchester who won the Noble Prize for Physics in 2010 for their efforts. Graphene is transparent in infra-red and visible light, flexible, and stronger than steel. It conducts heat 10 times faster than copper and can carry 1,000 times the density of electrical current of copper wire. Graphene is expected to be a revolutionary material that could change the technology of semi conductors and LCD touch screens and monitors, create super small transistors and super dense data storage, increase energy storage and solar cell efficiency, and will transform many other applications.

According to a professor at Georgia Tech University, there are nearly 200 companies, including Intel and IBM, currently involved in graphene research. In 2010 graphene was the subject of approximately 3,000 research papers and the European Union and South Korea have each recently started $1.5 billion efforts to build industrial scale, next generation display materials using graphene as a substitute for indium tin oxide(“ITO”). The world has only 5-10 years of ITO reserves remaining and prices exceed US$700,000 per tonne.

If you’re interested about Northern Graphite there’s more here, and if you want to learn more about Grafen Chemical Industries, go here.

Canadians as hewers of graphite?

Who knew large flakes could be this exciting? From the July 25, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

Northern Graphite Corporation has announced that graphene has been successfully made on a test basis using large flake graphite from the Company’s Bissett Creek project in Northern Ontario. Northern’s standard 95%C, large flake graphite was evaluated as a source material for making graphene by an eminent professor in the field at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who is doing research making graphene sheets larger than 30cm2 in size using the graphene oxide methodology. The tests indicated that graphene made from Northern’s jumbo flake is superior to Chinese powder and large flake graphite in terms of size, higher electrical conductivity, lower resistance and greater transparency.

Approximately 70% of production from the Bissett Creek property will be large flake (+80 mesh) and almost all of this will in fact be +48 mesh jumbo flake which is expected to attract premium pricing and be a better source material for the potential manufacture of graphene. The very high percentage of large flakes makes Bissett Creek unique compared to most graphite deposits worldwide which produce a blend of large, medium and small flakes, as well as a large percentage of low value -150 mesh flake and amorphous powder which are not suitable for graphene, Li ion batteries or other high end, high growth applications.

For anyone who’s not familiar with the excitement over graphene and its possibilities, here’s the latest from the two scientists who pioneered work in this area (from the July 24, 2011 news item on Nanowerk),

Now the research from the creators [Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov] of the material promises to accelerate that research, and potentially open up countless more electronic opportunities.

The researchers, from the universities of Manchester, Madrid and Moscow, have studied in detail the effect of interactions between electrons on the electronic properties of graphene.

They use extremely high-quality graphene devices which are prepared by suspending sheets of graphene in a vacuum.

This way most of the unwanted scattering mechanisms for electrons in graphene could be eliminated, thus enhancing the effect of electron-on-electron interaction.

This is the first effect of its kind where the interactions between electrons in graphene could be clearly seen.

The reason for such unique electronic properties is that electrons in this material are very different from those in any other metals. They mimic massless relativistic particles – such as photons.

Due to such properties graphene is sometimes called ‘CERN on a desk’ – referencing the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. This is just one of the reasons why the electronic properties are particularly exciting and often bring surprises.

Northern Graphite’s home page features a bullish few paragraphs about its prospects (excerpted from the home page),

Northern Graphite Corporation is an Ottawa-based Canadian company that recently closed a $4 million initial public offering and began trading on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol “NGC”.

Northern’s principal asset is the Bissett Creek graphite project located 100km east of North Bay, Ontario and close to major roads and rail and power lines. The Company has completed an NI 43-101 preliminary assessment report on the project and has subsequently initiated a bankable final feasibility study and commenced the environmental and mine permitting process.  Northern anticipates that it will be in a position to begin construction of the mine early in 2012, subject to positive results from the bankable final feasibility study and the availability of financing.

Graphite prices have almost tripled since 2005 due to the ongoing industrialization of China, India and other emerging economies and resultant strong demand from traditional steel and automotive markets. However, new applications such as lithium-ion batteries, fuel cells and nuclear power have the potential to create significant, incremental demand growth in the future. For example, there is 20 to 30 times more graphite than lithium in lithium-ion batteries. The use of li-ion batteries is growing rapidly in consumer electronics and this trend will continue with the increased use of hybrid and all electric vehicles.

On the plus side, this looks like there might be more jobs. As is often the case in Canada, these jobs are about extracting resources (the hewers of wood, drawers of water economy).

I did find a reference to the environment on pp. 101-2 of a technical report mainly focused on an economic assessment of the Bissett Creek property. The section on the environment concentrates on the location of a waste dump and railings. Hopefully, the geologists and engineers who run the company will have more information about environmental impacts in the not too distant future since they (from the July 25, 2011 news item on Nanowerk) are getting ready to construct facilities,

Northern Graphite Corporation holds a 100% interest in the Bissett Creek graphite project which is located 17kms from the Trans Canada highway between Ottawa and North Bay, Ontario. The Company is in the process of completing a bankable Final Feasibility Study and permitting with the objective of initiating construction, subject to the results of the study and the availability of financing, in the first part of 2012.

I gather they are looking for investors.