- Lithium-ion batteries power modern technologies, but another critical element is required to build them – graphite, the battery’s single largest component, the production of which is mainly controlled by China
- Currently, no significant production of lithium-ion battery anode material exists in North America; resuming domestic graphite production emerges as critical in reducing reliance on foreign supply and increasing energy self-sufficiency amid growing international geopolitical tensions
- Reflex Advanced Materials seeks to fill the market gap by reactivating domestic mining operations of flake and vein graphite; with direct access to top-notch supply chain partners, it is uniquely positioned in the market as a provider of domestic graphite
Essential to modern technologies, critical minerals are of strategic importance to countries around the world, especially those that rush to expedite energy transition and decarbonize the economy. This is where companies like Reflex Advanced Materials (CSE: RFLX) (OTCQB: RFLXF), a company focused on strategic metals and advanced materials space, aim to step in to deliver minerals needed to power modern devices.
As the renewable energy sector continues to grow and more electric cars are expected to enter the market as countries pivot away from fossil fuels, the need for more raw materials to build batteries will continue to surge. Still, in public discourse about the minerals that are vital to the country’s sustainable energy plans, we have come to focus on reliance on foreign lithium supply, often leaving one other critical mineral overlooked, despite it being an essential part of modern consumer electronics, power tools, and electric vehicles. It is graphite, the single largest component in the ubiquitous lithium-ion batteries.
Although the angst about China’s tight grip on the battery metals supply chain often concentrates on lithium, the lithium supply gap could be easier to solve compared to graphite. Currently, there are no substitutes for graphite in Li-ion batteries – as an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, it is the only material that can be used to make anodes. Also, it is the largest input in batteries by weight – it takes 20 to 30 times more graphite than lithium to make Li-ion batteries. And as it turns out, China’s grip on graphite is even tighter than it is on lithium. With the latter, China does not dominate mining, only processing. But when it comes to graphite, China eclipses practically all other countries as it produces almost all graphite in the global market.
From the government to academia, there seems to be a consensus that gaining better control over the battery supply chain is intertwined with graphite production. “If we want to produce more batteries domestically, we’re going to need to increase our production of graphite,” said Northwestern University chemical engineer Jennifer Dunn, summarizing findings of a recent paper she co-authored that was recently published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal (https://ibn.fm/uqQks).
Aligned with these findings, measures like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Defense Production Act seek to boost domestic sources of battery minerals and ramp up the U.S. battery supply chain by incentivizing the use of domestically sourced materials — including graphite – in a bid to take control of clean technology supply chains away from China. Although American content is becoming a priority for a growing number of manufacturers, the U.S. supply of battery minerals is nowhere near meeting the demand since there is currently no significant production of lithium-ion battery anode material in North America. But boosting these domestic sources could become a challenge as this market has traditionally been dominated by private, family-owned businesses that have been slow to respond to an environment that maintains a pace of change.
As the role of critical minerals in the clean energy transition grows and countries scramble to secure access to these essential materials, the imbalances between their supply and demand will continue to swell. For example, it is estimated that the growth in anode demand will continue to drive a yawning gap of 8 million tonnes of graphite by 2040.
As a critical mineral fueling a greener economy, the flake graphite market is expected to flourish, growing more than threefold by 2030, driven by the swelling demand from the rapidly growing green sectors. Reflex Advanced Materials views its capacity to process graphite in the U.S. as a source of its competitive advantage as it enables customers to increase the domestic content in their products amid growing international geopolitical tensions.
For more information, visit the company’s website at www.ReflexMaterials.com.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to RFLXF are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/RFLXF
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