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Serendipity broadens the scope for making graphite

Posted By Graphene Council, Monday, July 27, 2020
Described in a research paper published today in Nature’s Communications Materials, the new technique does not require the typical metal catalysts or special raw materials to turn carbon into crystalline graphite. Interestingly it was instead discovered by a research student in a lab, using an Atomic Absorption Spectrometer (AAS) – a piece of equipment, invented in Australia in the 1950s and developed to analyse the composition of liquids.

The Master-level student behind the discovery, Mr Jason Fogg, said that while the exact science behind why this new technique works is still to be confirmed, he believes it relates to the specific way the AAS heats the samples through short fast pulses.

“We used a special furnace that can heat the sample to 3000 degrees Celsius in seconds, something most furnaces cannot achieve,” Mr Fogg said.

“To put the temperature into perspective, 3000 degrees Celsius is equal to about half the surface temperature of the Sun.”

Dr Irene Suarez-Martinez, from Curtin’s School of Electrical Engineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences, said that while graphite is the most stable form of carbon, most carbon materials stubbornly refuse to turn into graphite, which is why she was absolutely shocked to learn about Mr Fogg’s results.

“When he told me that he created perfect crystalline graphite from a known non-graphitising carbon material, I could not believe it, I was absolutely amazed at the results. It was only when we repeated the results three times that I was convinced,” Dr Suarez-Martinez said.

The most astonishing result involved the polymer polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC), which Dr Suarez-Martinez described as a ‘textbook example’ of a very stubborn material.

As the world’s demand for lithium ion batteries increases, scientists expect the commercial demand for crystalline graphite to also increase, and this research team is now determined to work out the precise details of why this special pulse heating method was so effective.

“Our hypothesis is that atmospheric oxygen soaks into the structure between pulses, and the rapid heating on the next pulses burns away the structures that would usually prevent graphite from forming,” Dr Suarez-Martinez said.

“We’re also interested to see if other complex carbons will also transform. Could this method be able to convert organic carbon material, such as food waste, into crystalline graphite?

“Right now we’re only able to create very small amounts of crystalline graphite, so we are far from being able to reproduce this process on a commercial-level. But we plan to explore our method and hypotheses further.”

The work was performed in collaboration with scientists Professor Peter Harris from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom and Professor Mauricio Terrones from the Pennsylvania State University in the USA, both helping the Curtin University research team confirm their results.

Tags:  Curtin University  Graphene  Graphite  Irene Suarez-Martinez 

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Battery Breakthrough Gives Boost to Electric Flight and Long-Range Electric Cars

Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, July 22, 2020
In the pursuit of a rechargeable battery that can power electric vehicles (EVs) for hundreds of miles on a single charge, scientists have endeavored to replace the graphite anodes currently used in EV batteries with lithium metal anodes.

But while lithium metal extends an EV’s driving range by 30–50%, it also shortens the battery’s useful life due to lithium dendrites, tiny treelike defects that form on the lithium anode over the course of many charge and discharge cycles. What’s worse, dendrites short-circuit the cells in the battery if they make contact with the cathode.

For decades, researchers assumed that hard, solid electrolytes, such as those made from ceramics, would work best to prevent dendrites from working their way through the cell. But the problem with that approach, many found, is that it didn’t stop dendrites from forming or “nucleating” in the first place, like tiny cracks in a car windshield that eventually spread.

Now, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, have reported in the journal Nature Materials a new class of soft, solid electrolytes – made from both polymers and ceramics – that suppress dendrites in that early nucleation stage, before they can propagate and cause the battery to fail.

The technology is an example of Berkeley Lab’s multidisciplinary collaborations across its user facilities to develop new ideas to assemble, characterize, and develop materials and devices for solid state batteries.

Solid-state energy storage technologies such as solid-state lithium metal batteries, which use a solid electrode and a solid electrolyte, can provide high energy density combined with excellent safety, but the technology must overcome diverse materials and processing challenges.

“Our dendrite-suppressing technology has exciting implications for the battery industry,” said co-author Brett Helms, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry. “With it, battery manufacturers can produce safer lithium metal batteries with both high energy density and a long cycle life.”

Helms added that lithium metal batteries manufactured with the new electrolyte could also be used to power electric aircraft.

A soft approach to dendrite suppression
Key to the design of these new soft, solid-electrolytes was the use of soft polymers of intrinsic microporosity, or PIMs, whose pores were filled with nanosized ceramic particles. Because the electrolyte remains a flexible, soft, solid material, battery manufacturers will be able to manufacture rolls of lithium foils with the electrolyte as a laminate between the anode and the battery separator. These lithium-electrode sub-assemblies, or LESAs, are attractive drop-in replacements for the conventional graphite anode, allowing battery manufacturers to use their existing assembly lines, Helms said.

To demonstrate the dendrite-suppressing features of the new PIM composite electrolyte, the Helms team used X-rays at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source to create 3D images of the interface between lithium metal and the electrolyte, and to visualize lithium plating and stripping for up to 16 hours at high current. Continuously smooth growth of lithium was observed when the new PIM composite electrolyte was present, while in its absence the interface showed telltale signs of the early stages of dendritic growth.

These and other data confirmed predictions from a new physical model for electrodeposition of lithium metal, which takes into account both chemical and mechanical characteristics of the solid electrolytes.

“In 2017, when the conventional wisdom was that you need a hard electrolyte, we proposed that a new dendrite suppression mechanism is possible with a soft solid electrolyte,” said co-author Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and faculty fellow at Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University who led the theoretical studies for the work. “It is amazing to find a material realization of this approach with PIM composites.”

An awardee under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) IONICS program, 24M Technologies, has integrated these materials into larger format batteries for both EVs and electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or eVTOL.

“While there are unique power requirements for EVs and eVTOLs, the PIM composite solid electrolyte technology appears to be versatile and enabling at high power,” said Helms.

Researchers from Berkeley Lab and Carnegie Mellon University participated in the study.

The Molecular Foundry and Advanced Light Source are DOE Office of Science user facilities co-located at Berkeley Lab.

This work was supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) and the DOE Office of Science. Additional funding was provided by the DOE Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists, which enabled undergraduate students to participate in the research through the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships program.

Tags:  Battery  Brett Helms  Graphene  graphite  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 

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Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Ongoing NETL research into advanced concrete additives could one day revolutionize the construction of bridges and other infrastructure, saving communities money and time while also spurring economic demand for one of the nation’s most abundant and historic resources: coal.

Due to its low cost, versatility, and malleability concrete remains the most popular construction material in the world. However, concrete, at least in its conventional cement paste composition, has several limitations.

These include susceptibility to chemical corrosion from the salts used for deicing roads and deterioration from the freeze-thaw cycles that occur when water penetrates cracks during winter months. Traditional concrete also suffers from lower tensile strength, which is the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled before breaking. These drawbacks lead to lengthy and costly inspection periods and repairs, often disrupting the flow of traffic and public life in general in the process.

However, a concrete additive containing a carbon nanomaterial called graphene can counter some of these drawbacks due to its excellent mechanical and physical properties. For example, graphene nanomaterials could fill the smallest of cracks within the cement structure as it hardens, increasing the durability and longevity of the structure by preventing salt and water from penetrating the concrete and causing damage.

Over the past three years, NETL has developed the idea of producing graphene materials from coal, marking a significant development because graphene is traditionally sourced from graphite, which is a far more expensive feedstock.

Graphene is an allotrope of the element carbon. This means it possesses the same atoms, but arranged in a different way, giving the material different properties like how diamonds and graphite are both made of carbon but with very different properties. Lightweight, flexible, and thinner than human hair while being several times stronger than steel, graphene possesses tremendous potential for replacing certain materials while enhancing others already in common use such as concrete.

“We have found that coal-based nanomaterials could improve the mechanical properties of cement composite by 20-25 percent and increase resistance to water damage by two orders of magnitude,” explained Yuan Gao, a research scientist leading NETL’s work on graphene enhanced concrete. “We can reach similar levels of improvement regarding concrete’s strength and durability via graphene, but at reduced expense.”

The cost of making graphene concrete additives sourced from graphite remains one of the biggest impediments to widespread commercial use of the material. However, if it could become a mainstay, Gao said this could create more economic activity downstream because coal is more abundant and cheaper to extract.

“Concrete is the most widely used construction material, with 10 billion tons of it produced every year around the world,” she said. “Large-scale application of coal-based carbon nanomaterials in concrete could greatly promote the consumption of domestic coal.”

NETL’s work in graphene-enhanced concrete material is currently at lab scale. NETL’s Christopher Matranga, with the Lab’s Functional Materials Team, said the next step in this leading-edge research is seeking out industry partners for collaboration that can put these materials to the test on a large scale.

“All research we do at NETL is to discover and innovate and then transfer that knowledge and technology to the public by partnering with industrial partners who can develop the technology further and commercialize it,” he said. “Right now, we’re trying to find external partners that would be interested in developing this technology or licensing it. Those are the first big steps in moving toward commercialization.”

Going further into the future, Gao said the Lab also plans to examine the electrical and thermal properties of its composite materials, such as self-sensing and heat management capabilities, which could not only lengthen the lifespan of concrete infrastructure but help engineers more accurately detect damages and stresses. She said NETL plans to explore the use of graphene in other constructional materials, such as asphalt.

Tags:  carbon nanomaterial  Christopher Matranga  Graphene  graphite  National Energy Technology Laboratory  Yuan Gao 

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Former Vice President & Portfolio Manager of Goodman & Company Joins Board of NextSource Materials

Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, July 22, 2020
NextSource Materials Inc.’s Molo Graphite Project in Madagascar is in the final stages of development and ranks as one of the largest-known and highest quality flake graphite deposits in the world. 

As part of NextSource’s ongoing strategy to continually strengthen and enhance the Company’s operating capabilities and capital markets exposure, the Company is pleased to announce that Mr. Brett Whalen, CFA, has joined the Board effective immediately. 

Mr. Whalen has over 20 years of investment banking and M&A expertise, spending over 16 of those years at Dundee Corporation.  During his tenure at Dundee Corp., Mr. Whalen was directly involved in completing approximately $2 billion in M&A deals and helped raise over $10 billion dollars in capital for resource sector companies.  

While a Vice President and Portfolio Manager of Goodman and Company (a division of Dundee Corp.), Mr. Whalen oversaw an investment of $6.0 million into NextSource enabling the Company to achieve key technical milestones, notably the completion of its July 2017 Phase One Feasibility Study and the concept and design of the full modular build approach NextSource will be utilizing for construction of both Phase One and Phase Two of the Molo mine. Mr. Whalen has held Board seats of several TSX-listed and privately held companies and holds a BA (Honours) degree in Economics and Finance from Wilfrid Laurier University.

Extensive Knowledge in the Graphite and Battery Materials Sectors 

Mr. Whalen has extensive knowledge of graphite and vanadium and the battery materials industry in general, where it is widely recognized by industry analysts that the aggressive growth forecasts for graphite in high-quality steel applications and especially for use in batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage systems, will require significant supply of high-quality graphite for these applications.  As the world’s consumption of graphite as a strategic battery (anode) material is forecast to go much higher, there is going to be significant strain on non-Chinese sourced supply of flake graphite as a feedstock for battery anodes required in electric vehicles and renewable energy storage systems.

Mr. Whalen commented, “Batteries, and their role in the mass adoption of electrified vehicles, will permeate our lives and I am excited to be involved during this important time in the Company’s development by assisting in sourcing the necessary capital to build the Company’s Molo mine and accelerate strategic plans for involvement in downstream value-added products such as graphite foils and battery anode material.  A lot of attention will be focused on the anode over the coming years, especially the increasing role that natural graphite will play, causing investors to take a serious look at which deposits will need to come onstream to fill anticipated supply deficits.  After more than 5 years researching the graphite industry, I have chosen to join the Board of NextSource due to the quality of their deposit and the global offtake partners they have signed and will be signing in the future.  In addition, with the Company’s recent announcement of executing a Letter of Intent to collaborate on a battery anode facility with its Japanese Offtake Partner and a prominent Chinese graphite anode OEM supplier, the opportunity ahead for NextSource as a vertically integrated supplier will be very attractive to the world’s largest auto manufacturers, who are looking for a complete anode solution.”

Dean Comand, Chair of the Board commented, “Brett will add a special dimension to moving NextSource forward as his proven skills are well understood and acknowledged in the capital markets arena.  The Company is very fortunate to have had Brett’s counsel and support in the past while he was a portfolio manager at our largest institutional investor and we are delighted he has chosen to be involved in the next critical steps of NextSource as we accelerate development of our Molo mine and consider entry into the downstream value-added graphite products space.”

Tags:  Brett Whalen  Dean Comand  Graphene  Graphite  NextSource Materials 

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Focus Graphite Inc. Announces Appointment of Marc R. Roy as Chief Executive Officer

Posted By Graphene Council, Monday, July 20, 2020
Focus Graphite Inc. (“Focus” or the "Company") (TSX-V: FMS; OTCQX: FCSMF; FSE: FKC), an advanced exploration company focused on the production of graphite concentrate, announced today that it has appointed Marc R. Roy as Chief Executive Officer, effective July 1, 2020.  Mr. Roy will also join Focus Graphite’s Board of Directors effective July 1, 2020.

Mr. Roy brings to Focus Graphite more than 20 years of global experience in Executive Management roles.   Mr. Roy, age 54, most recently served as an Executive at BDA, Inc. overseeing EMEA as well as global mergers and acquisitions from January 2017 to June 2020.  Prior to his position at BDA, Inc., Mr. Roy served as CEO of BrandAlliance from May 2013 to January of 2017.   Prior to BrandAlliance, Marc served as CEO of Accolade Reaction Promotion Group from January 1999 to February 2010.  His extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions as well as track record in delivering results, while leading transitioning companies, made him an ideal addition to the executive team and Board of Directors.

"Marc is a seasoned executive with the diverse experience and skill set necessary to lead Focus Graphite to the next phase of operational development," said Mr. Jeffrey York, Chairman of the Board of Focus Graphite. "As a company, we have made progress in aligning our focus with our core strengths over the past several months, and the Board looks forward to Marc’s leadership as we advance the Lac Knife graphite project into production and drive toward important milestones."

"I am honored to have the opportunity to lead Focus Graphite at this point in the company's evolution," said Mr. Roy. "With a strong development plan in place, I believe Focus Graphite has the potential to deliver significant shareholder value while positively contributing to the graphite industry. I look forward to working with Focus Graphite’s executive team and Board to advance the company."

Gary Economo, outgoing President and CEO of Focus Graphite commented, “I wish to thank the Board of Directors, management, employees and our dedicated shareholders for all of the support you have provided to me.  I remain confident in the great potential and future of Focus Graphite’s development assets and I believe this is the ideal time to allow Marc to continue the development of the Lac Knife Project and the future vision of the Company.”

Tags:  BDA Inc  BrandAlliance  Focus Graphite  Gary Economo  Graphene  Graphite  Jeffrey York  Marc R. Roy 

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Mysterious mechanism of graphene oxide formation explained

Posted By Graphene Council, Monday, July 20, 2020
Project lead Ayrat Dimiev has been working on this topic since 2012, when he was a part of Professor James Tour's group at Rice University. First results saw light in 2014. That paper, which has amassed 490 citations at this moment, dealt with the mechanism of turning graphite into graphene oxide (GO). Dr. Dimiev later transferred to the private sector and resumed his inquiries in 2017, after returning to Kazan Federal University and opening the Advanced Carbon Nanomaterials Lab. The experimental part of this new publication was conducted by Dr. Ksenia Shukhina and Dr. Artur Khannanov.

Natural graphite, used as the precursor for graphene oxide production, is a highly ordered crystalline inorganic material, which is believed to be formed by decay of organic matter. It is extremely thermodynamically stable and resistant to be converted to the organic-like metastable graphite oxide. On this route, it goes through several transformations, resulting in respective intermediate products. The first intermediate product is graphite intercalation compound (GIC). GICs have been intensively studied in the second half of the 20th century. In recent years they gained renewed interest due to the discovery of graphene and related materials. The second step of the complex reaction, i.e. the conversion of GIC to pristine graphite oxide, remained mysterious. The most interesting question was about the nature of species attacking carbon atoms to form covalent C-O bonds. For many years, it was conventionally assumed that the attacking species are the manganese derivatives like Mn2O7 or MnO3+. In this study, the authors unambiguously demonstrated that the manganese derivatives do not even penetrate graphite galleries; they only withdraw electron density from graphene, but the actual species attacking carbon atoms are water molecules. Thus, reaction cannot proceed in fully anhydrous conditions, and speeds up in presence of small quantities of water.

Another new finding, registered by Ksenia Shukhina for the first time, was the imaginary reversibility of the C-O bond formation, as long as the graphite sample remains intercalated with sulfuric acid. The as-formed C-O bonds can be easily cleaved by the laser irradiation, converting GO back to stage-1 GIC in the irradiated areas of the graphite flake. After careful analysis, this "reversibility" was interpreted by the authors as the mobility of the C-O bonds, i.e. the bonds do not cleave, but freely migrate along the graphene plane for micron-scale distances. The discovered phenomena and proposed reaction mechanism provide rationale for a range of the well-known but yet poorly understood experimental observations in the graphene chemistry. Among them is the existence of the oxidized and graphenic domains in the GO structure.

The results of this fundamental study give a comprehensive view on the driving forces of the complex processes occurring during the transformation of graphite into graphene oxide. This is the first time such a multifaceted des­cription of a dynamic system has been made, and this is the result not only of newly obtained experimental data, but also of many years of reflection on the issue by the project lead. Understanding these processes will finally let one to control this reaction and get products with desired properties. This applies not only to the final product of graphene oxide, but also to the entire family of materials obtained by exposing graphite to acidic oxidizing mixtures: expanded graphite, graphene nano-platelets containing from 3 to 50 graphene sheets, graphite intercalates, and doped graphene. As for graphene oxide itself, its successful use has already been repeatedly demonstrated in such areas as composite materials, selective membranes, catalysis, lithium-ion batteries, etc. However, the use of graphene oxide is hampered by the high cost of its production and the lack of control over the properties of the synthesized product. The published research addresses both of these problems.

Currently, work is ongoing to study the interaction of graphene oxide with metals. The researchers are firmly convinced that this process is based not just on electrostatic attraction, or on non-specific adsorption, as it is commonly believed, but on a chemical interaction with bond formation through the coordination mechanism. The objective now is to describe the complex reaction mechanism of the rearrangements, leading to the metal bonding in the dynamic structure of graphene oxide.

Tags:  Advanced Carbon Nanomaterials Lab  Artur Khannanov  Ayrat Dimiev  Graphene  graphene oxide  graphite  Kazan Federal University  Ksenia Shukhina  Rice University 

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Quarterly Activities Report and Appendix 5B 30 June 2020

Posted By Graphene Council, Thursday, July 16, 2020
Battery anode and graphene additives company Talga Resources Ltd is pleased to report its activities for the quarter ending 30 June 2020.
June 2020 quarter activities included:

• Battery anode agreement with Farasis Energy
• Talnode®-C customer interest exceed 300% of planned annual production
• Forecast demand drive consideration of significant anode capacity expansion in Niska Scoping Study
• Talga in Bentley Motors electric drive project

• Swedish National Interest supports Vittangi Graphite Project development
• Full scale (Stage 2) mining applications submitted for Vittangi Anode Project
• Stage 1 feasibility studies set for completion

• Talga graphene and battery anode webinar participation
• COVID-19 measures continue
• Cash balance of A$5.1 million as at 30 June 2020

Managing Director, Mr Mark Thompson: “We are delighted to advance our commercial relationship with Li-ion battery manufacturer Farasis, who are in a strategic partnership as supplier to Mercedes-Benz, and continue to deepen Talga’s engagement with battery producers and end users attracted to our EU-local and low CO2 anode production potential.

While the period was marked by the impact of COVID-19, our dedicated team never stopped performing and continued to deliver commercial progress across all our product lines. Most notable is the significant expressions of  interest in our Li-ion battery anode products and the solid progress we have made towards becoming Europe’s largest anode producer, perfectly positioned on the doorstep of the world’s fastest growing EV market.

In the next quarter we will continue to advance partnerships to support the development and financing of the Vittangi project, and complete a range of studies to map out its larger scale production potential in step with our customer demands.”

Tags:  Bentley Motors  Graphene  Graphite  Li-ion Batteries  Mark Thompson  Talga Resources 

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Gratomic Appoints Armando Farhate as Chief Operations Officer and Head of Graphite Marketing and Sales

Posted By Graphene Council, Thursday, July 16, 2020

Gratomic Inc. officially welcomes Armando Farhate aboard as Chief Operations Officer and Head of Graphite Marketing and Sales. Mr. Farhate was previously appointed as Head of the Advisory Board. Due to his extensive and successful experience in the graphite mining industry, Gratomic is thrilled to have him onboard in his new role with the Company.

Mr. Farhate will oversee all operations for the Aukam Graphite Mine in Namibia, Africa. This includes the completion of the final 10% of construction required to take the processing plant into the full commissioning phase. He will also be responsible for the management of graphite product sales and marketing, leading to the procurement of purchase contracts and the vertical integration required for the creation and sale of end-user products. Mr. Farhate’s appointment as Chief Operations Officer is subject to TSX Venture Exchange approval.

Mr. Farhate’s prior experience in the planning, engineering, project management, marketing and sales areas of the graphite mining industry make him the ideal candidate to fill this role. In past projects, he was responsible for quality management, environmental management, and implementing strategic and tactical planning. In addition to operations and graphite marketing and sales, Mr. Farhate will oversee the quality management of the Aukam Graphite Mine and he will coordinate important decisions regarding processing.

Some notable accomplishments in Mr. Farhate’s experience include Natural Graphite Operations/Product Director with Imreys Graphite and Carbon and COO at National de Graphite Ltda. Some of Mr. Farhate’s responsibilities at Imreys included acting as Operations Director, directly responsible for the mining and processing units in Lac-Des-Îles, QC, and Terrebonne, QC, Canada, with 60 employees and annual sales revenue of $ 18 MM CDN. Farhate obtained 15% of OEE improvement and reduction to zero of lost time accidents. He carried out technical visits and operational due-diligences in projects of new industrial units in several countries, including a project that resulted in a joint venture in Namibia, with assets of US$ 40MM and Imreys holding a 51% share of the joint venture.

While at Imreys, Farhate was also responsible for ensuring that the product offering was adequate to the needs of the target markets, which included the preparation and development of business cases aimed at launching new product lines and new production processes; the definition of sales price policies, and the development of Marketing and Sales plans for new industrial units. He was in charge of the long-term strategy for Natural Graphite, including the definition of new production locations and sourcing strategies.

During his time at National de Grafite Ltda., Armando Farhate was responsible for the direct management of Geology, Mine Planning, Mining, Processing, Industrial Engineering, R&D, Quality System, Environment, and Sales & Marketing. He performed high level contacts with federal and state regulatory public organizations in Brazil, as well as with municipalities and state congressmen, regarding mining permitting and environment licensing processes.

Mr. Farhate coordinated new mine opening processes, including the obtaining of mining permissions and environment licenses. He coordinated, together with specialized consultants, mineral assets evaluation processes and implemented control tools generating integrated information about output, efficiency, cost and inventory levels of three different plants and more than 20 product lines, optimizing production planning and order fulfillment and obtaining OEE improvements up to $1.25 MM/yr. CDN at the three industrial units held by NDG.

He led new product and process development, including the negotiation of partnerships with public and private universities in Brazil and abroad with emphasis on the obtaining of graphite oxide and graphene from natural crystalline graphite, and on the development of process technology for lithium-ion battery anode. He conducted, in partnership with HR and Controlling, a restructuring process on administrative and supporting areas, including upper management, with savings of $300,000/yr CDN.

Mr. Farhate’s experience and expertise will undoubtedly be of great value to the Company.

Tags:  Armando Farhate  Graphene  Graphite  Gratomic 

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Brookhaven and Forge Nano to Mature Noble Gas-Trapping Technology

Posted By Graphene Council, Friday, July 10, 2020
A research proposal submitted by the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) and Nuclear Science and Technology (NST) Department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, with the startup Forge Nano as a partner, has been selected as a 2020 Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) project. Of the 82 technologies selected from among more than 220 applications, three were developed at Brookhaven Lab. This TCF funding is the first to be awarded to the CFN, where the technology was developed.

The DOE Office of Technology Transitions manages the TCF program, which was created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to promote promising energy technologies developed at DOE national labs. Federal funding awarded through the TCF is matched with nonfederal contributions by private partners interested in commercializing the technology. The goal of the TCF is to advance the commercialization of these technologies and strengthen lab-private sector partnerships to deploy them to the marketplace.  

The project that Brookhaven Lab and Forge Nano scientists will partner on is called “Maturation of Technology for Trapping Xenon and Krypton.”

Xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) are two noble gases produced during nuclear fission—a reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into two or more smaller, lighter nuclei—inside nuclear reactors. These gases can decrease the amount of energy extracted from a nuclear fuel source by increasing the pressure in the fuel rod (the sealed tubes that contain fissionable material) and reduce fuel rod lifetime. Moreover, radioactive isotopes of Xe and Kr can become trapped in unreacted fuel, which requires disposal. Therefore, capturing and removing Xe and Kr could improve the energy-generation efficiency of nuclear reactors and reduce radioactive waste.

For several years, scientists in the NST Department have been exploring various candidate materials—including microporous carbon and porous metal-organic frameworks—to absorb these fission gases, thereby reducing pressure buildup in fuel rods. Separately, scientists at the CFN have been developing 2-D porous, cage-like frameworks made of ultrathin—less than a single nanometer—inorganic silica (silicon and oxygen) and aluminosilicate (aluminum, silicon, and oxygen) films supported on metal surfaces. In 2017, they became the first team to trap a noble gas inside a 2-D porous structure at room temperature. Last year, they discovered the mechanism by which these “nanocages” trap and separate single atoms of argon (Ar), Kr, and Xe at room temperature. Following these studies, the CFN submitted an invention disclosure on the silicate materials for trapping gases (among other applications) to Brookhaven’s Intellectual Property Legal Group, which together with Brookhaven’s Office of Technology Transfer, helped the team explore promising applications and connected CFN and NST scientists.

“Trapping single atoms of noble gases at noncryogenic temperatures is extremely difficult and a relevant challenge for nuclear waste remediation, among other industrial applications,” said CFN Interface Science and Catalysis Group materials scientist Anibal Boscoboinik, who has been leading the work. “This difficulty is primarily due to the weak interaction of noble gases in their neutral state. The approach developed at the CFN enables trapping of the noble gas atoms in cages via ionization—converting them to electrically charged atoms, or ions—for a very brief time so they can enter the cages. Once they are inside, they go back to their neutral, stable state, but by that time they are already physically confined in the cages.”  

Now, through the TCF, Brookhaven will partner with Forge Nano to scale up the manufacture of the lab-demonstrated nanocages to maximize the surface area for trapping Kr and Xe atoms. One possible way to achieve this optimization is to place the nanoporous materials inside larger (mesoporous) materials—in other words, a cage within a cage. Forge Nano will apply its expertise in atomic layer deposition—a technique for depositing one atom at a time onto a surface material until a complete layer is formed—for precision nanocoatings to coat the inside of the mesopores with nanocages, where the trapping will occur.

“This innovative material application is a perfect match for us at Forge Nano for coating atomically thin controlled coatings,” said project partner Staci Moulton, the application engineer for business development at Forge Nano. “We are excited to work with CFN researchers to scale up their breakthrough.”

Using ion beams and test reactors at Texas A&M University’s Nuclear Engineering and Science Center and Accelerator Laboratory—one of the partner facilities accessible through the Nuclear Science User Facilities—the Brookhaven team will test the radiation stability of the materials at levels relevant to nuclear fission reactor environments.

“The radiation damage testing capabilities available at Texas A&M will greatly accelerate our ability to construct robust materials,” said NST Department Chair Lynne Ecker.

“Research in our group focuses on understanding at a fundamental level the physicochemical processes that happen on functional surfaces and interfaces exposed to chemicals,” said CFN Interface Science and Catalysis Group Leader Dario Stacchiola. “To probe these processes in real time and under operating conditions, we develop and operate state-of-the-art in situ and operando tools.”

To follow the trapping of the gases, they will perform x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), a technique for identifying and quantifying the elements on a sample’s surface. These studies will be conducted using ambient-pressure (AP) XPS instruments located in the CFN Proximal Probes Facility and at the In situ and Operando Soft X-ray Spectroscopy (IOS) beamline of Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II).

If successful, this technology—which Brookhaven’s Intellectual Property Legal Group recently submitted a provisional patent application for—would have a major impact on the nuclear power industry and environment at large. As of 2018, nearly 450 nuclear reactors were generating electricity, equivalent to 10 percent of the global electricity supply. Nuclear power is the second largest source of low-carbon electricity (hydropower is the first).

“The nanocages can be transformative in the field of nuclear power generation by improving the efficiency and reliability of nuclear reactors and reducing radioactive waste and emission,” said Boscoboinik.

“A technology to more efficiently trap, separate, and sequester noble gases has applications in advanced nuclear reactors,” added Ecker. “The nanocages have the potential to become an enabling technology for future reactors. We’re very excited to explore this possibility by working with our partner, Forge Nano.”

Tags:  Anibal Boscoboinik  Arrelaine Dameron  Brookhaven National Laboratory  Center for Functional Nanomaterials  Dario Stacchiola  David King  Forge Nano  Graphene  Graphite  Lynne Ecker  Nuclear Science and Technology (NST) Department  Staci Moulton  U.S. Department of Energy 

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Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Zen Graphene Solutions Ltd. (“Zen Graphene” or the “Company”) (TSXV:ZEN) is pleased to announce the closing of the second tranche, comprised of 1,621,175 units, of its previously announced private placement of units (the “Offering”). The Company raised total gross proceeds of $2,049,999.80 under the Offering, which will be used to fund ongoing work on the Albany Graphite Project including graphene research and scale up, COVID-19 initiatives and other graphene applications development and for general corporate purposes. The Board of directors wishes to thank all the long-term shareholders and new shareholders who participated in the Offering.

Francis Dubé, CEO commented: “With this private placement now completed, the company is in a strong financial position to accelerate the many research and development projects it has underway and explore new opportunities that are being considered.”

The total Offering consisted of the issuance of 3,416,666 units (“Units”) at a price of $0.60 per Unit, for aggregate gross proceeds of $2,049,999.80. Each Unit consisted of one common share of the Company (“Common Share”) and one half of one non-transferable share purchase warrant (“Warrant”). Each whole Warrant will entitle the holder thereof to acquire one additional Common Share at an exercise price of $0.80 per Warrant, exercisable for a period of twenty-four months from the closing of the Offering (the “Exercise Period”).

All Warrants issued in connection with the Offering are subject to an acceleration clause. If the Company’s share price trades at or above $1.00 per share for a period of ten (10) consecutive trading days during the Exercise Period, the Company may accelerate the expiry date of the Warrants to 30 calendar days from the date on which written notice is given by the Company to the holders of the Warrants.
The Common Shares and the Warrants issued in connection with the second tranche of the Offering will be subject to a hold period until November 7, 2020 in accordance with applicable securities laws.

Tags:  COVID-19  Francis Dube  Graphene  Graphite  Healthcare  ZEN Graphene Solutions 

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