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Graphite is one of world’s most versatile manufacturing materials and essential for the production of new and developing technologies, particularly Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and power storage, fire retardant building materials and graphene for revolutionary nanotechnologies.
International Graphite is one of the new generation of manufacturers that will produce secondary graphite products to support both emerging industries and existing graphite markets. IG’s Mena plant will be designed for rapid expansion with a diversified product mix that includes:
Smartphones, electric cars and 3D printers, along with fuel cells that generate electricity by chemical reaction, are all powered by batteries that use graphite as the anode material. It is a giant market and set to grow quickly. A Li-on battery to power an electric vehicle typically requires 10 times more graphite than lithium bringing high quality spheroidised graphite into tight supply.
Tesla broke new ground when it opened the first stage of its “Gigafactory No 1” in 2016, with plans to produce enough Lithium batteries to supply 1,500,000 electric cars per year. More plants are planned in the US, Europe and China. In 2017, Tesla switched on the world’s biggest lithium battery to feed electricity into the Australian domestic grid. China is a major producer of EVs.
As the world searches for renewable energy sources, the real future of graphite may lie in fuel cells which converting chemical energy into electricity using external fuel supplies.
The outlook for graphite is buoyant with market analysts predicting:
Traditional graphite markets are also robust. Graphite has long been in demand for everything from pencils and refractory materials, used in furnaces, kilns, incinerators, and reactors, to flame deflector systems for rocket launch structures. Graphite is also found in automotive components, inks and coatings, paints, polymers and plastics, lubricants and grease, ceramics, drilling fluids, steel pipe and tubing, fire retardants and oil spill recovery materials. In 2017, the refractory segment accounted for more than 43% of the market.
The ultimate boost for graphite may come from graphene. Dubbed the strongest material in the world, this thin, flexible commodity is 10 times lighter and 200 times stronger than steel. Due to its atomic structure, graphene can be moulded into any shape and conducts electricity at the speed of light. IBM is currently using it to produce the fastest computer chip in history and ultimately, graphene chips may replace silicon chips in computers.