PALM BEACH, Florida, March 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ --
MarketNewsUpdates.com News Commentary
Whenever a new smartphone comes out, everybody wants to know what makes it so great that we need to rush out and buy it. For the new Samsung Galaxy S9, the biggest improvement is arguably the phone's battery. Since last year, Samsung has been working on a breakthrough technology that could accelerate battery charging time by five times, moving away from a leading electric vehicles' manufacturer. The secret weapon to this technology? A material called graphene - a single layer of the mineral graphite. Right now, the market for battery-grade graphite is facing a potential shortage. With demand set to soar by 200% in less than three years this will be welcome news for mining companies like Albemarle Corp. (NYSE: ALB), FMC Corp. (NYSE: FMC), SQM (NYSE: SQM), and Graphite Energy Corp. (CSE: GRE) (OTC: GRXXF).
Before the Samsung S9, our best smartphones usually take about an hour to charge. By taking advantage of graphene's super high conductivity (which is 100 times more effective than copper), Samsung's batteries could now charge in approximately 12 minutes. That's five times faster than what we've been accustomed to.
This technology will likely go well beyond smartphones. For example, if applied in the Tesla Model S, Samsung's graphene would be able to cut down its charge time from 75 minutes to an hour. This is all thanks to the latest technological breakthrough in the battery space, and it's all because of a layer of graphite.
Graphene is also able to transfer energy 140 times faster than a popular battery metal that we've all heard of - lithium, and it's about 100 times lighter than aluminum. In simple words, the battery's power density could also be 45% higher.
Samsung's Breakthrough is Perfect Timing For Mining Graphite
The introduction of Samsung's new battery technology is perfect timing for mining operations. Currently there are only two producing graphite mines in North America, and others like Graphite Energy (CSE:GRE) (OTC: GRXXF)'s Lac Aux Bouleaux (LAB) property situated in Quebec has already begun drilling this week. The biggest of these mines is held by European miner Imerys (previously called TIMCAL), right next to the LAB property.
Perhaps thanks to the graphene technology, the graphite mining industry has been gaining traction lately. For example, Graphite Energy (CSE: GRE) (OTC: GRXXF) shares rose from $1.03 to $1.36 (a 32% gain) in just one week leading up to the drilling announcement.
Not Just Any Graphite Will Do
Discovered as recently as 2004, graphene is still at a novel stage of application. However, the substance has always been known to be a great conductor of electricity and is even stronger than steel. These properties make graphene "on paper" an ideal candidate to make batteries with. Some have even referred to it as the "next silicon".
If you're wondering why graphene hasn't been used already if it was this perfect, the problem was with the technology and production. But now that Samsung has solved the technological side - proving that it could be used in a smartphone battery with the fastest charging time - the next hurdle to overcome is production.
Most graphite nowadays is made synthetically in Asia (China leads the way with 65% of global supply), but this burns coal and defeats the whole purpose of having "clean" renewable energy that does not pollute the environment, so the and the world is shifting away from synthetic graphite. To make our batteries using graphene, more natural graphite would be needed, but it's extremely rare.
The imminent drilling on Graphite Energy's (CSE: GRE) (OTC: GRXXF) property could give rise to North America's next natural graphite supplier. Some of the largest tech and car companies in the world are situated here, and being as scarce and in-demand as it already is, all eyes will be on when production of this industry-quality, eco-friendly graphite will begin. Graphite Energy's (CSE: GRE) (OTC: GRXXF) has confirmed its recent high-grade sampling to advance LAB toward production. The results returned 2.2% to 22.3% graphite, half of which were high quality (large or jumbo flake graphite). On average, a grade of 5% is already considered viable for battery applications.
Graphite Demand Set To Explode
According to Roskill, only 5% of the graphite used in 2015 was in batteries. But as we all know, that was when electric cars just became popular. Now that a slew of automakers like GM and Volvo have pledged to go all-electric in the near future, the market for rechargeable battery materials like graphite could explode.
It's estimated that the entire market demand would triple to 250,000 tonnes by 2020. In comparison, the Imerys mine currently produces 25,000 tonnes, so a global graphite shortage is inevitable. It's also predicted that global graphite prices are set to dramatically increase each year from now on.
The benefits graphene aren't being left unnoticed. Last year, graphite was named in President Donald Trump's list of critical minerals, and with the heavy import tax just announced for steel and aluminum, graphite could also see a similar boost.
Remember, this was even before Samsung's new graphene technology. The graphite market is promised to get bigger when others begin to catch on. Now that graphite has entered the consumer market, proving that it can be used in practical applications, it's likely only a matter of time before investors' attention shifts to graphite and away from less efficient metals like lithium.
Other Notable Companies Influencing The Energy Mineral Space
Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA)
Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk are looking to revolutionize the entire auto industry and the renewable energy sector, pledging a fully "green ecosystem". For its car batteries, Tesla uses those made up of small lithium-ion cells like the ones found in portable electronics rather than individual large battery cells of other automakers. In terms of milestones in renewable energy, the company built the world's largest lithium battery last year in Australia. The battery, connected to a 325 MW wind farm, could store enough energy to power 30,000 homes in one hour.
Albemarle Corp. (NYSE: ALB)
Albemarle has mining operations in Chile, where the company is producing 125,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year at the Atacama salt flat. In the U.S., Albemarle is working the Silver Peak lithium brine mine in Nevada, where it is estimated that over 300 million pounds of lithium carbonate have been produced since 1966. The company also has a strong presence in Australia, where it plans to follow the lead of its Chinese JV partner Tianqi Lithium and build a lithium hydroxide plant at the Greenbushes mine.
FMC Corp. (NYSE: FMC)
FMC operates its lithium business in Argentina at the Salar del Hombre Muerto. Recently, the company announced that it would invest $300 million to double its production to 40,000 metric tonnes per year at the salar by 2019. Back in 2016, FMC entered an agreement with Canadian company Nemaska Lithium, under which Nemaska would supply FMC with 8,000 metric tonnes of lithium carbonate annually beginning in mid-2018.
SQM (NYSE: SQM)
Chilean mining giant SQM is mainly focused on its operations at the Salar de Atacama, where the company had a long dispute with the government over project royalties until it was resolved in early 2018. In addition to its Chilean operations, SQM also has a joint venture with Lithium Americas develop the Cauchari-Olaroz lithium project in Argentina. First production in Argentina is targeted for 2020.
But now, the increasing shortage and the breakthrough of Samsung's graphene technology means that graphite could become the next big focus in the mining industry.
The Secret Weapon to Our Clean Energy Boom
The fact that graphene has been established as a disruptive force in consumer electronics means we could no longer sit back on the graphite supply we currently have.
Samsung's Galaxy S9 release may have just the entire world on a new path to finding best battery solutions, and given investors a new energy mineral to get excited about. In the near future, competition like Apple and Tesla will look to match that, but the secret is already out. Graphene is the key to efficiently power anything that runs on batteries, and contenders like Graphite Energy (OTC: GRXXF; CSE:GRE) will be pivotal in meeting North America's natural graphite demand.
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