The ProEdgeWire sponsor share price index for graphite witnessed a strong rebound last week, increasing almost 40%. There were two companies in particular that stood out: Galaxy Graphite (TSXV: GXY), which witnessed a 333.00% increase in price after announcing assay results from its Buckingham graphite property in Quebec and Zenyatta (TSXV: ZEN), which confirmed the validity of a method able to achieve 99.6% purity. Zenyatta said that thanks to the use of two different leaching processes on samples from its Albany graphite deposit in Ontario it was able to achieve a 99.7% (Carbon) pure graphite; a second and less expensive method yielded 99.96% purity. This kind of purity is on par with synthetic graphite; however, the latter is far more costly because it is derived from petroleum and using methods that create considerable environmental complications. Synthetic graphite easily costs from three to ten times the price of mineral graphite and the only reason for its existence is the purity. Evidently, this kind of purity makes Zenyatta’s graphite ideal for graphene.
The two results came in the wake of the fresh impetus to promote graphene research in Europe after the EU granted Nokia and its partner a Euro 1 billion research grant. The Nokia grant will prove to be momentous in the advancement of graphene technology and, ultimately, to the promotion of the value of graphite. The graphite ‘revival’ that started some two years ago and which saw prices set new records in early 2012 can now expect a steadier outlook. Much of the revival has been driven by the importance of graphite to battery technology and by the promise of graphene, the new ‘wonder material’. Graphene now has the chance to truly transform from promise to reality and those graphite plays able to achieve the right characteristics for processing into graphene. Graphene has many applications for researchers and developers; it can be transparent, it is flexible and yet extremely sturdy, which is why it is suitable for so many applications.
Nokia and Samsung have already developed graphene flexible touch screens; there are new light and strong composite materials for the aerospace and automotive engineering sectors and other applications that will allow for faster and smaller computers. There are clearly great hopes placed in graphene research. The European Commission plans to promote the graphene research in the next decade and more details, about the way the one billion Euros grant will be used, were revealed. The research project is divided into eleven sections addressing various areas from material development to optoelectronics and sensors. Moreover, as noted above, one of the more suitable applications will be to make faster computers through the use of graphene in semiconductors thanks to the distinct magnetic moment caused by an intrinsic angular momentum of the electrons in graphene. Not only is graphene being compared to silicon because of its revolutionary potential; it is also being touted as a replacement for silicon in transistors, seeing as silicon appears to have reached its development limits. European researchers are hoping that graphene could replace silicon in the next ten years. Graphene transistors would be able to perform multiple operations simultaneously allowing for faster and more energy efficient functionality. Evidently, this would reduce the load on batteries and enable even more size and weight reduction.
Nokia was but one of the beneficiaries of the billion Euros grant; Philips and Airbus are two of the other industrial giants involved. The EU is placing a great deal of confidence in graphene and expects it to lead a new technological revolution that might also drive the Union out of its growth slump. The EU support program for graphene is unique and is all about keeping Europe as a competitive venue for new technology. One of the unique areas of European research in graphene is chemical in nature. EU scientists have been researching graphene’s chemical properties and how the material itself can be further modified. Researchers use alkaline elements such as potassium or sodium to electrically charge graphene, enabling it to bond with other compounds including organic ones, allowing for applications in the biomedical field. Of course all these wonder depend on the ability to produce large quantities and the race is on to achieve true mass scale production. In the meantime, graphite mining will have become more important and graphene should help to sustain demand and price. The next decade will be crucial for the development of graphene from the graphite stage to the mass production and commercialization of products made possible by its characteristics.