What is Graphite?
- One of two natural forms of carbon, the second is the diamond
- A non-metallic mineral
- An excellent conductor of heat and electricity
- Remains stable through a wide range of temperatures (melting point: 3650°C)
- Is highly refractory
- Has the highest natural strength and stiffness of any material
- Is an excellent lubricant due to its low frictional resistance
- Is non-corrosive
- Is light weight
- Is an important component in the production of the anode in a Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery
- There are some 200 known graphite applications
Graphite – an integral part of every battery.
Batteries and energy storage devices are changing the world, as we know it and some analysts and scientist believe that it that they will change the DNA of society.
Interesting Graphite Facts
Today, a battery, or energy cell, is often referred to as a litium-ion battery. This is misleading, because there is, actually, a lot more graphite than lithium in a lithium-ion battery, giving rise to the assumption that based on the future demand of the Tesla Gigafactory alone, the demand for and cost of natural graphite flakes may be set for a significant rise in the future.
“Cells should be called nickel-graphite, primarily because the cathode is nickel and the anode side is graphite,”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk
In early 2017, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk spoke of three new potential Gigafactories for post-2020 production, which would have a major impact on the raw materials, such as graphite, necessary to fuel these plants.
According to independent research company Benchmark Mineral Intelligence:
- There is 54kg of graphite in the battery anode of each Tesla Model S (85 kWh)
- Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 is expected to require over 42,000 tonnes of graphite anode material every year at 35 GWh capacity of new cell production
- The battery anode market for graphite (natural and synthetic) will at least triple in size from 80,000 tonnes in 2015 to at least 250,000 tonnes by the end of 2020. Rising demand will also influence price.
- Forecasted growth of electric vehicles in China can significantly impact the demand for graphite – some analysts predict a 200% increase in demand by 2020
- Spherical graphite is currently one of the fastest growing industries
- Not all graphite is the same, there are different purities and flake sizes, all of which impacts the end use possibilities
- India’s demand for graphite flakes is increasing at an exponential rate, for infrastructure development as well as for EV and large scale energy storage
- As India’s demand for graphite increases, along with the rest of the world, the need for natural graphite flakes will go ballistic in all possible markets
Graphite is ideal for numerous applications as it has properties found in both metals and non-metals. Flake graphite accounts for approximately 40% of global natural graphite supply. The supply of flake graphite is concentrated primarily in China, with Brazil, North Korea, Canada and India accounting for nearly all of the remainder of production.
Graphite is found in a vast number of products and tools such as batteries, fuel cells, refractories, lubricants, nanotechnology, and graphene. According to some analysts, graphite has become one of the most important minerals in the high tech industry and represents economic prosperity in the most developed countries.
Potential North American graphite consumption for electric vehicles is expected to grow by as much as 93,000 tons per year (“TPY”) by 2020, or the equivalent of 25% of estimated global flake graphite production of 375,000 TPY in 2013 (reference: Industrial Minerals magazine).
China is responsible for roughly 75% of all global graphite production.