Graphite Sector drops 13.89% but Battery Technology and Graphene see Boost
March 2013 Graphite Month in Review: The ProEdgeWire Graphite & Graphene Sponsor index endured a -13.89% loss for the month of March, erasing most of the gains seen in February when the same index rose by 16.72. The fact that the best performer, Zenyatta Ventures (TSXV: ZEN) managed a 0.50% gain. Nevertheless, Zenyatta has experienced an excellent year to date, given that it more than doubled its share price in the course of February alone. It would have been difficult for the Company to add to that performance without more breakthrough announcements. After SGS Canada Inc. confirmed the remarkable 99.96% purity potential, using conventional processing techniques, of the Albany graphite deposit, Zenyatta announced that it will proceed with the definition of the size of the deposit, launching a 10,000 meters, 40 holes, drilling exploration program that will be completed next August.
Zenyatta will continue to draw attention thanks to its synthetic graphite defying properties. Focus Graphite (TSXV: FMS | OTCQX: FCSMF | FRANKFURT:FKC) reported results of their fall 2012 exploration drilling program at the Lac Knife Property in Quebec, showing an extensive southward strike length extension from the main deposit and, more importantly, an equally valuable carbon grade in the 18-21% range. These results are encouraging in view of the 2013 drilling program that will further delineate the extent of the deposit. As for the graphite sector in general, Focus Graphite’s CEO, Gary Economo, observed that while lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries have become more popular than ever, their key ingredient is graphite rather than lithium, considering that a Li-ion battery may contain as much as ten times the amount of graphite as lithium. Nevertheless, lithium has been attracting more attention in the mainstream; especially, this past March when electric and hybrid vehicles received a major publicity boost at the Geneva Motor Show. The highlights saw three supercar manufacturers – Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche – introducing their most powerful road cars ever, all featuring some form of hybrid propulsion.
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The electric power components in all three hyper-cars are all designed to offer additional power, while reducing emissions and fuel consumption compared to an equivalent power gasoline-only powered equivalent. The iconic image of these automobile marques and the technological advancements of their latest offerings can only boost the appeal of electric automobiles and the demand for batteries. Moreover, these cars feature extensive use of composite materials such as carbon fiber in the chassis and other structural components to help save weight. The high purity that several emerging graphite miners have been achieving makes their products all the more appealing for future transportation technology.
The other technological breakthrough is in the area of graphene. To this effect, in order to demonstrate the aggressive way in which this material is being researched and developed, our own Dr. Luc Duchesne noted a correlation between the number of graphene patents filed with the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) between 2007 and 2012 and the comparable number of patents for silicon (click here). He observed that the graphene patents increased from 20 to 500 a year, while silicon patents dropped from 10,000 to 5,000. This suggests that graphene research is increasing rapidly (ten-fold) while silicon research has virtually halved. Graphene has often been described as the ‘silicon’ of the 21st century; it seems Dr. Duchesne has proved this to be more than a rumor.