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Zenyatta Ventures reports significant progress in graphene production from Albany graphite

Published 29 January 2016

Zenyatta Ventures has announced significant progress related to the laboratory scale production of graphene from high-purity Albany graphite concentrate by a team of scientists at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Graphene was discovered in 2004 at the University of Manchester, UK. Graphene is a single sheet of pure graphite that is one atom thick, flexible, transparent, stronger than diamonds or steel and is highly conductive.

Experts believe that graphene will enable many innovative cleantech applications, including low-cost solar cells, super computers and rapid charge batteries. So far, one obstacle to its widespread use is the high manufacturing cost for high-quality graphene. A lower-cost approach is to use high-purity natural graphite, like Albany graphite, as the starting point.

In 2015, Dr. Aicheng Chen, Professor of Chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Materials and Environmental Chemistry at Lakehead University ('Lakehead'), was awarded a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada ('NSERC') Collaborative Research and Development ('CRD') grant.

The goals of the NSERC CRD project are: (i) to characterize the physical and chemical properties of Zenyatta's Albany graphite; (ii) to understand its electrochemical behaviors; (iii) to modify the Albany graphite for practical applications; and, (iv) to develop advanced carbon nanomaterials like graphene from the Albany graphite. Since the award of the grant, Dr. Chen and his research group have made significant advances in the characterization of Zenyatta's Albany graphite and the development of new materials from it for practical applications.

Chen and his team have tested various graphene exfoliation techniques on samples of Albany graphite. The research team at Lakehead has been intensively exploring new routes for the generation of high-quality graphene for comparative purposes and to facilitate mass production.

Initial results indicate that high quality graphene oxides can be produced from Albany graphite at a laboratory scale. CLICK HERE of the image of scanning electron microscopic image of the graphene oxide produced from Zenyatta graphite. The graphene oxide produced can be converted to graphene via a simple reduction process. Preliminary graphene yields of approximately 98% from Zenyatta's Albany graphite are very encouraging from these tests.

Chen commented, "From an analytical perspective, the Albany graphite meets all the stringent requirements for a high-quality product, encompassing high-purity, crystallinity, thermal stability, and high surface area. Interestingly, the crystallinity found in Zenyatta's Albany graphite was greater than that of commercially available graphite samples which were also tested for comparative purposes. These initial studies indicate that there are great potential opportunities for the utilization of this product in multiple practical applications. For example, these graphite derivatives will be explored for their medical, energy and environmental technology applications."

In addition to its incorporation into advanced batteries, graphite and its derivatives (like graphene) have been employed for the development of various sensors and electronic devices.

Recent investigations of graphene derived from graphite have demonstrated significantly improved electrochemical performance in these systems due to its unique electronic properties, enhanced surface area, novel mechanical and thermal properties, and chemical stabilities, when compared to the parent graphite. These qualities are very important for emerging high-tech or cleantech applications.

Bharat Chahar, VP of Market Development for Zenyatta, stated, "The Company is excited with these results and is very pleased to learn that Dr. Chen and his research team have confirmed earlier test results from other academic institutions, like Ben-Gurion University in Israel, and continue to show that Zenyatta's Albany graphite is an ideal source material for graphene production (see News Release dated 24 September 2015). The Company is convinced of the importance of this new and superior material (graphene) and is confident that the amount invested globally on R&D by large corporations and academics will result in eventual commercialization at a large scale.

It is important for Zenyatta to play an active role in R&D related to graphene research, by providing Albany graphite test samples to research facilities. While we are optimistic about the potential of graphene in large scale commercial usage, we also believe that graphene requires much technological development before realizing this potential. Additionally, the graphene sector will require advancement in the area of mass production and we are uncertain of the total global demand for this nano-material at this time."

Various analytical techniques were used by Dr. Chen and his team to determine the physical and chemical properties of the Albany graphite, including X-ray diffraction, energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry, surface area analysis, thermogravimetric analysis, and Raman spectroscopy. The electrochemical properties of the Albany graphite were also tested, and results indicate that the electrode potential range and double layer capacitance of this material were comparable to those of graphite samples from leading commercial graphite venders.

Zenyatta continues to develop its unique Albany graphite deposit in Ontario, Canada. The Company's highly crystalline graphite deposit is situated 30 km north of the Trans-Canada Highway, power line and natural gas pipeline near the communities of Constance Lake First Nation and Hearst.

A rail line is located 70 km away with an all-weather road approximately 10 km from the graphite deposit. The world trend is to develop products for technological applications that need extraordinary performance using ultra-high purity graphite powder at an affordable cost. High-purity and highly crystalline graphite material is gaining prominence in the cleantech sector at a time when Zenyatta discovered an igneous-related, fluid-derived graphite deposit. Albany graphite can be upgraded with very good crystallinity without the use of aggressive acids (hydrofluoric) or high temperature thermal treatment therefore having an environmental advantage over other types of upgraded high-purity graphite material.

Source: Company Press Release