Sunday, May 15, 2011

Could this type of research lead Focus Metals to the forefront of the graphite business

Graphite is not only becoming a very familiar name in respect to its valuable use in the production of lithium-ion batteries, for any number of uses, which vary from laptop batteries to electric vehicle batteries. To produce a lithium-ion battery for an electric vehicle there is approximately 20 times the amount of graphite used in comparison to lithium. This all seems to bring tremendous potential to Focus Metals (TSXV:FMS), considering that analysts are predicting a significant shortfall in production compared to global demand. Much of this is due to the fact that China currently produces 70%, by some estimations, and as high as 80% by others. It is therefore realistic to expect a shortfall going forward, since China has added graphite to the list of items that face export restrictions and raised export taxes for what product is allowed to be sold. This has helped to drive graphite prices much higher over the last year or so.

As popular as graphite is becoming there is another product which comes from purified graphite. This product is known as graphene, which although discovered many years ago, it has never been found to contain any known viable uses. This is changing rapidly with the huge increase in nano research. As this research progresses, I think it is relatively safe to expect huge strides to be made in regards to finding commercial uses for graphene. If this proves to be the case, that would present a potential to Focus Metals that would be of the largest type. Graphene as opposed to graphite sells for a much higher premium.

Record levels expected; amorphous graphite’s supply from China still a concern

Graphite prices have continued to rise, with some grades of medium and large flakes reaching or crossing the

threshold of $2,000/tonne, market sources reported to


“We have seen price increases for material from China. The increase is mainly due to seasonal effect as most of

the mines are still closed and the demand is still high,” a Europe-based trader explained.

“There is now a more strict control from the custom authority and the minimum export prices for calculating the

export tax have been adjusted,” he added.

Crystalline graphite, large flake, 94-97% C, +80 mesh, FCL, CIF European port, increased to $2,000-2,500/tonne

from a previous range of $1,800-2500/tonne.

Graphite, crystalline, medium flake, FCL, CIF European port, jumped to$1,500-1,900/tonne from $1,000-

1,400/tonne to for 85-87% C (+100-80mesh) and to1,800-2,300/tonne from $1,600-2,000/tonne for 94-97% C

(+100-80 mesh).

Meanwhile, fine crystalline graphite, CIF European, increased to $1,400-1,800/tonne from $950-1,400/tonne for

90%C, -100 mesh, and to 1,750-2,150/tonne from $1,500-1,850/tonne for 94-97%C, -100 mesh.

“Prices for natural flake graphite from China have increased significantly during H2 2010,” another European

trader confirmed to

IM, pointing out the discrepancy of graphite requirement and graphite production during that

period as the driving force to explain this rise.

“Economy recovered worldwide, the lithium-ion battery industry requested more and more quantity of graphite

and production was not increasing at the same pace,” he said.

Towards $3,000/tonne?

What will happen during the next few months is not easy to predict and will mainly depend on the

supply/demand situation in China.

“Prices were stagnant in 2010. Now it seems over the last 12-15 months, prices are going up – probably the

tendency is to continue this trend,” a Europe-based trader commented.

“There are rumours that the price rises will cease over the next few months as Chinese producers return in May,

but I don’t think this is the case – Chinese companies are basically already back in the market,” he added.

Some producers have called for even greater price increases, with one trader commenting that large flake

graphite, European port, could climb to $3,000/tonne.

Amorphous graphite

Prices for amorphous graphite also increased significantly, with amorphous powder (80-85% C, Chinese, FCL,

CIF European port) increasing from $430-450/tonne to $600-800/tonne.All graphite mines from the main mining

area in Hunan province in China have been closed for about nine months now, constraining supply.

Focus Metals is currently in the process of having their scoping study and NI43-101 completed, which should be within the following weeks, and is expected to show a resource of 8.2MT. What makes this, the Lac Knife project, so valuable in my opinion is the fact that this deposit is open in almost every direction, and contains graphite that contains 17% carbon content, while most contain between 2% and 5% carbon content. Add to this the fact that the majority of this can be purified to the point that graphene can be produced from it.

How close is graphene to making a breakthrough in the global technology sector as well as the medical field? Here is an excerpt from an article followed by the link to the full article.
 "The work could also help us better understand the basic physics of what happens at the edges of graphene samples", he added. Edges are as important and as useful as any other part of graphene, especially as the size of nanostructuregraphene edge behaviour, however, has lagged behind other graphene research because of the difficulties of preparing and probing smooth graphene edges," said Crommie. "Our new results advance our ability to control and characterise graphene edge nanostructures

'Activated' graphite oxide boosts supercapacitors
Researchers in the US have discovered a new form of carbon produced by "activating" expanded graphite oxide. The material is full of tiny nanometre-sized pores and contains highly curved atom-thick walls throughout its 3D structure. The team has also found that the material performs exceptionally well as an electrode material for supercapacitors, allowing such energy-storage devices to be used in a wider range of applications.
Capacitors are devices that store electric charge on two conducting surfaces separated by an insulating gap – the larger the surface area of the capacitor, the greater its capacity to hold charge. Charging a capacitor requires electrical energy, which is recovered when the device is discharged. Supercapacitors, also known as electric double-layer capacitors or electrochemical capacitors, store more charge thanks to the double layer formed at an electrolyte–electrode interface when a voltage is applied. Although already used in applications such as mobile phones, these devices are currently limited by their relatively low energy storage density compared with batteries.
Now, Rodney Ruoff and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin and scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Texas at Dallas and QuantaChrome Instruments have synthesized a new form of porous carbon with a very high surface area. The carbon consists of a continuous 3D porous network with single-atom-thick walls, with a significant fraction being "negative curvature carbon" similar to inside-out buckyballs. The researchers used the material to make a two-electrode supercapacitor with high gravimetric densities of capacitance, energy capacity and power per unit mass. What is more, the team claims that the process used to make this form of carbon can be scaled up to produce industrial quantities of the material.

Expanded with microwaves

Ruoff and co-workers begin by converting samples of graphite into graphite oxide, which they expand using microwaves to generate what they have dubbed "microwave-expanded graphite oxide" (MEGO). The MEGO is then treated with potassium hydroxide so that its surface is covered (or decorated) with the chemical. After heating at 800 °C for about an hour in an inert gas, "activated MEGO" or aMEGO is obtained.
"What is quite surprising is that the [potassium hydroxide] remarkably restructures the carbon so that a 3D porous structure is generated with essentially no edge atoms," Ruoff told "Every wall in the structure is one atom thick and all the carbon atoms there are sp2-bonded."
The researchers used aMEGO as the carbon for electrodes in a supercapacitor – mixing it with different electrolytes. They obtained "exceptional" gravimetric energy densities that are about four times higher than that of state-of-the-art conventional supercapacitors, for example those based on porous activated carbon, on the market today.

Best BET

The porous carbon produced also has a "BET" (Brunauer–Emmett&nadash;Teller) surface area of up to 3100 m2/g. For comparison, typical activated-carbon materials have BET surface areas in the range of 1000 to 2000 m2
And that is not all: the material is also very stable and continues to work at 97% capacitance even after 10,000 constant current charge/discharge cycles.

For those interested everyone should do their own due diligence or consult a professional adviser. A good place to start your due diligence is at the company website at and at .

For disclosure purposes I have received no compensation of any kind for this post. I own shares in Focus Metals.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for another great read. Very informative.