Scandinavia is an historic
graphite-producing region, with past producing deposits
becoming the target of redevelopment projects in a handful of
areas across Norway and Sweden over the past three years.
In Janaury 2013, Swedens
Chalmers University was at the head of a successful bid for a
grant of at least 500m ($672*) from the European
Commissions flagship Future Emerging Technology (FET)
initiative to research graphene.
The grant awarded, which is to be
used for investigating production methods for the material,
involving a total of 74 universities and companies, will be
matched by financial support from other public and corporate
sources, taking the total value of the award to Û1bn and
will be paid out over the next 10 years.
As well as boosting Europes
role in what is already an intensive global drive to develop
and commercialise the properties of graphene, the single-atom
thick layer of carbon which can be derived from natural
graphite, will also help to raise the profile of
Scandinavias graphite mining industry.
Norway is looking to take advantage
of its indigenous reserves of the mineral and its own
world-leading research capabilities to establish a graphene
Abalonyx, a Norwegian technology
start-up company, has been working with graphene and graphene
derivatives since 2008.
It is well known that certain
natural graphites are excellent raw materials for producing
graphene in the forms of graphene oxide, chemically converted
graphene and reduced graphene oxide, Rune Wendelbo,
founder and CEO of Abalonyx, told IM.
Abalonyx uses a modified version of
the Hummers method to develop a safe, scalable and
reproducible process for making graphene from natural graphite,
which has been automated and is now being commercialised.
Abalonyx has entered into a
non-exclusive strategic agreement with Norwegian graphite
junior Nordic Graphite to focus on developing a vertically
integrated supply chain for graphene production and the
companies are presently working jointly to scale up
Abalonyxs process to demonstration scale.
We are also looking at other
interesting materials, such as vein graphite from Sri Lanka,
and plan to start demo-production in 2014, Wendelbo
For natural graphite to be
the preferred raw material, it must be close to 100%
crystalline, which is normally not the case with synthetic
graphites, he explained.
We ran a pilot reactor for
two months in 2012 using purified natural graphite as the raw
material. The purpose of the pilot run was to confirm
scalability, reproducibility and safety as well as acquiring a
basis for our production cost estimates. Our cost estimate
shows graphene oxide can be produced for Û22
($30*)/kg, he said.
With our process, most
impurities can be tolerated, up to a level of 5% or so, because
they are separated from the graphene together with other
wastes, Wendelbo noted.
In terms of flake size, there
is no rule, but larger flakes will require a longer process
time. For some end-uses, smaller flakes are preferred whereas
for others, larger flakes are preferred.
For example, our sister
company, Graphene Batteries, uses our graphene for battery
applications, which have special requirements for product
properties in order to boost battery performance. Graphene
Batteries optimises Abalonyxs graphene materials for
their applications, as other end-users would do, he
In Sweden, ASX-listed Talga
Resources Ltd is looking to develop graphite projects in the
north of the country where its two most advanced developments
are the Nunasvaara and Raitajarvi deposits.
Nunasvaara is a microcrystalline
(commonly known as amorphous) graphite deposit, with a size
range of 2-300 microns, but is predominantly less than 50
microns and has a total indicated and inferred JORC resource of
7.6m tonnes grading at 24.4% C.
Raitajarvi is coarse flake, and has
a JORC inferred resource of 4.3m tonnes grading at 7.1% C,
with 3.4m tonnes grading at 7.3% C in the indicated
At Raitajarvi, there was some
metallurgical work done [on the deposit] by the Swedish
Geological Survey [between 1974 and 1991]. As a standard coarse
flake deposit, [it has] a bell curve around the large flake
size and an 11% jumbo component, CEO Mark Thompson told
Potentially, Nunasvaara could be in
production by early 2016, but we have several stages of
economic diligence to go yet; likewise, for Raitajarvi,
However, although the local fervour
for graphene, batteries and graphite-consuming renewable
technologies is strong in Sweden, Thompson isnt throwing
in his lot with next generation technology just yet. I
like traditional markets, the more basic the better. Batteries
are exciting but growth is slower than anyone likes, he
Graphene also is exciting
technically, but it is very early days for seeing which
technology will win and therefore what product, if indeed any
natural product, is required, he added.