Focus Graphite (CVE:FMS)(OTCQX:FCSMF) has said that Grafoid Inc - a privately held joint venture in which it holds a 40 per cent stake - has inked a three-year research and development agreement with Hydro-Quebec's Research Institute for the development of next generation rechargeable batteries, using graphene and lithium iron phosphate materials.
Two key target markets were highlighted in the agreement - the rechargeable automobile battery sector, and batteries for mobile electronic devices used in smartphones, computing tablets and laptop computers - areas for which demand is projected to grow dramatically.
The parties said they chose to focus their collaboration on LFP-graphene batteries and materials because of their "short-term-to-market potential."
"This is our first major graphene collaboration with a Quebec and a Canadian global giant in renewable energy research and development," said president and CEO of both Focus Graphite and Grafoid, Gary Economo. "And the source of our graphene is Focus Graphite's Lac Knife, Quebec technology graphite deposit.
"Commercially, and ultimately, our technology development partnership with Hydro-Quebec aims to produce high capacity, LFP-graphene batteries with ultra short charging times and longer recyclable lifetimes."
Graphene is considered to be one of the strongest substances known to science. It occurs naturally in graphite, is 200 times stronger than steel and is so thin it is transparent. It is also flexible and electrically conductive.
The substance can be used as a transistor, as a component for industrial, aviation and infrastructural use, and can be produced for battery and super-charging capacitor applications.
Grafoid holds an economically scalable production process for graphene, derived from raw, unprocessed graphite ore. The joint venture develops and acquires patent applications, secures intellectual property and develops graphene applications.
The deal with Hyrdo-Quebec's Research Institute was announced by Economo, as well as by Dr. Karim Zaghib, the director of storage and conversion of energy at Hydro Quebec's R&D unit.
The 50-50 collaborative agreement sets out terms with the aim of creating patentable inventions by combining graphene, supplied by Grafoid, with Hydro-Quebec's patented lithium iron phosphate technologies.
Hydro-Quebec, using its own facilities and in-house technologies, will study Grafoid's graphene conductivity, electrochemical performance and its effects in electrode formulations, electrolyte and separator optimizations.
The research institute will also supply lithium iron phosphate materials and its "electrochemistry know how", it said, which it acquired under license from American inventor Dr. John Goodenough.
Grafoid said late Monday that in addition to providing graphene materials from the Lac Knife deposit, it brings knowledge acquired during its own development of functionalized graphene and in proving the substance's economic scalability. The joint venture ran a pilot plant for about five months to prove the low-cost manufacturing process, after which it is now manufacturing in kilos.
Focus Graphite boasts what it says is “the best technology-grade graphite in the world” at its flagship NI 43-101 compliant Lac Knife deposit, located in the Côte Nord region of Quebec.
The company says that Lac Knife is unique because of its cost-mitigating, high concentration of large, medium and small flake graphite. Flake graphite - the most actively pursued type of graphite and associated with next-generation technologies - is made up of layers of graphene.
Economo says one of the most important milestones achieved by the company this year was its long-awaited preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on the Lac Knife project, showing average concentrate grades of 92% graphitic carbon.
With a mine life of 20 years, the open pit operation is expected to yield 300,000 tonnes per year, with life-of-mine production of 928,000 tonnes of concentrate at 92% graphitic carbon on average, or approximately 46,600 tonnes of concentrate per year.
Pre-tax net present value - at a 10% discount rate - was estimated at $246 million with a 32% pre-tax internal rate of return and a pre-tax payback period of 2.8 years.
Initial capital cost was projected at $154 million, inclusive of $33 million and $24 million in working capital and contingency (25 per cent), respectively.