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Independent Test: Focus Graphite Succeeds in Producing Extremely High-Performing Coated Spherical Graphite For Lithium Ion Batteries
Creates the Potential for High Value Sales in the Li-Ion Battery Sector
OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - May 27, 2014) - Focus Graphite Inc. (TSX VENTURE:FMS)(FCSMF)(FKC.F) ("Focus" or the "Company") is very pleased to announce the results from coin cell tests for the lithium ion battery market recently performed on Lac Knife Spherical Graphite ("SPG").
Focus Graphite is the sole owner of the world-class, high-grade Lac Knife natural flake graphite project in Quebec. The Company's aim is to become one of the lowest cost producers of high-purity technology graphite from a vertically integrated business strategy.
Testing was conducted by a globally recognized, North American laboratory with particular expertise in processes related to lithium ion battery technologies. Its clients are some of the most advanced technology-related corporations in the world. The laboratory has completed its testing and has measured the performance properties of Lac Knife's materials on an environmentally sustainable basis. Focus Graphite has withheld the name of the laboratory for reasons of commercial and competitive confidentiality.
Lac Knife SPG battery tests evaluate three proprietary formulations that responded very well to CR2016 coin cell performance testing
Large, medium and fine micron size produced outstanding performance metrics
Testing results on the premium medium and fine grades exceed the performance of benchmark commercially available grades by significant percentages.
Tests confirm Focus' capability to tailor lithium ion battery anode grade graphite and value added products to meet the most stringent customer specifications
Focus Graphite Reversible Capacity Irreversible Capacity Loss Surface Area
Coin Cell Test Samples (Ah/kg) (%) (m2/g)
Coarse Carbon Coated SPG Grade (D90=42um) 362.1 6.80 % 0.64 %
Medium Carbon Coated SPG Grade (D50=24um) 363.7 1.44 % 0.48 %
Fine Carbon Coated SPG Grade (D50=17um) 365.1 1.01 % 1.14 %
A benchmark commercial grade of SPG provided a reversible capacity (RC) in the range of 345 to 355 Ah/kg and an irreversible capacity loss (ICL) of 6.5 %, a significantly higher loss compared to the 1.44% and 1.01% ICL for Lac Knife's medium and fine grade samples shown above.
In Lockstep With Industry
"Recent comments by leading North American auto makers signalled two significant market realities," said Focus CEO and Director Gary Economo.
"The first is the need to lower the costs of battery materials to encourage broader consumer interest in moving to electric vehicles. The second is that the potential North American battery market may well enjoy a much larger than anticipated growth in demand," Mr. Economo said.
"Again, these results add another layer of material value that holds the potential to de-risk even further our global enterprise goals," he said.
A detailed summary of the SPG tests is provided below.
SPG grades developed by Focus Graphite may help to solve one of the more difficult challenges holding back market growth for Li Ion batteries, "Increasing cycling capacity." One of the problems in using carbon based materials in Li Ion batteries is that it results in the formation of a Solid Electrolyte Interface ("SEI") layer which produces an irreversible capacity loss which generally ranges between 5 and 10% for benchmark SPG grades currently available in the market place.
Irreversible capacity loss means that a portion of the valuable lithium and graphite is wasted. Thus the efficiency is reduced and the cost increased. Lac Knife anode graphite is unique in having such a low loss.
Two premium (medium and fine) grade SPG's developed by Focus have achieved First Cycle Irreversible Capacity Losses of 1.44% and 1.01%, respectively, truly remarkable results. These lower ICL values of the SPG grades produced by Focus can lead to the production of higher capacity and longer life Li Ion batteries.
Furthermore, the low surface areas of the premium coated grades of SPG at 0.48 and 1.14% m2/g can help to improve the safety of Li Ion batteries. The use of higher surface area carbons in these batteries can cause the temperature of the battery to increase and possibly result in the occurrence of thermal runaways.
Figure 1: The following Galvanostatic charge-discharge curve for the fine SPG grade illustrates the very promising nature of the Lac Knife concentrate. To view Figure 1, please visit the following link: http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/fms-figure1.pdf
This material has demonstrated a reversible capacity of 365.08 Ah/kg and an irreversible capacity loss of an ultra low 1.01%. The performance metric is calculated between the two curves in the chart above is the difference between 368.8 and 365.08 on a percentage basis. Approximately an 80% improvement over commercial benchmark grades was achieved.
The unique properties of the Lac Knife high carbon content concentrate that grades 98% C even in the finer grade products down to 200 mesh (75 microns) that are usually the most difficult products to sell. This holds the potential to allow Focus market access to significantly higher margin value added products with a finer grade lower cost product creating a unique opportunity. Additionally, Focus plans to offer the higher value large flake to other growing markets.
The -100 mesh size (150 microns), 98% C and +65 mesh size (230 microns) flake products spheronize very well establishing a unique Lac Knife concentrate quality.
Potentially these excellent Irreversible Capacity Loss ("ICL") results from the Lac Knife high quality flake uncoated concentrate are due to low reactivity at the flake edges compared to other graphite concentrates underlying its inherent value as a feed to the secondary battery market in a green technology revolution.
Also included in the study is a scanning electron photomicrograph of the 99.98 % purified high purity large flake graphite (See Figure 2 below) produced on both a laboratory and pilot plant scale from 98% C Lac Knife +65 mesh flake concentrate. This photomicrograph indicates that the Lac Knife concentrates are uniquely suited to produce high purity lithium ion battery grade graphite. What is important to note is that Lac Knife graphite concentrate consists of very pure graphite flakes with impurities located on the surface of the flakes.
Figure 2: Photomicrograph of Thermally Purified Flake Graphite showing exceptionally clean surfaces and grading 99.98% C. To view Figure 2, please visit the following link: http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/fms-figure2.pdf
Such surface impurities can be removed by using less expensive technologies. In the most competitive concentrates on the market, the impurities are intercalated or sandwiched within the layers and are more difficult to remove requiring higher cost processing methods during purification.
Figure 3: Photomicrograph of Thermally Purified Spherical Graphite grading 99.9% C. To view Figure 3, please visit the following link: http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/fms-figure3.pdf
The quality of the Lac Knife concentrate is continuing to create the potential for increased margins through to value added products and confirms the Company's plan to evaluate the potential of secondary transformation for as much of the Lac Knife production as is possible. The potential for increased margins from the secondary transformation of graphite concentrate is not included in the current Preliminary Economic Assessment for the project.
Current prices for coated, spherical graphite are at the $8,000 per tonne point. This compares to $20,000 per tonne for battery grade synthetic graphite, the only alternative for the anode in the battery.
"Commercially and competitively, these results open the door for Focus to confidently accelerate our plans to market and sell our battery grade, high margin products to potential partners and customers," said Focus President and COO Don Baxter.
"The data presented validates Lac Knife's potential to become a North American source of low-cost high purity flake graphite concentrate that could, possibly, lead to the production of batteries with better performance," Mr. Baxter stated.
"Further, these results enable us to continue with our vision of producing value added products. In particular, Focus' Director of Manufacturing and Technology Dr. Joseph Doninger and our Consultant, Mr. George Hawley have the capability to lead Focus through the development of various lithium ion battery products with the aim of building higher margin applications and downstream products" Mr. Baxter said.
Dr. Doninger said: "The Lac Knife premium medium and fine grades of coated SPG at 1.44% and 1.01% first cycle irreversible capacity losses and 0.48 and 1.14 m2/g surface areas are better than any similar sized SPGs that I've ever seen."
Battery manufacturers require a cost competitive alternative to current sources of natural SPG. China produces about 90% of the world's purified natural SPG, utilizing methods that are generally regarded as environmentally unsustainable.