Graphite Research Alliance
Motivation and Approach
Graphite is a crystalline form of the element carbon that has been recognised as one of the critical raw materials by many advanced economies including Canada and the European Union. Its unique properties make it a suitable candidate for a broad range of applications such as in the production of innovative energy storage and conversion systems. Thus, it has proven itself as the best value anode material in modern lithium-ion batteries (LIB) in terms of energy storage abilities, cyclical stability and cost efficiency. These advanced applications dictate stringent criteria on graphite flake size and purity that need to be assessed rigorously for product manufacturing.
To date, optical microscopy combined with chemical analyses are well-established assessment methods. Yet, these traditional techniques are rather time-consuming and subject to various errors, and they fail to provide a true 3-dimensional structure of graphite grains and their impurities. Computed Tomography (CT) is a non-destructive computerized X-ray method for studying the microstructure of multi-component materials and constructions in a 3D regime. In particular, CT can be used to detect the internal design of different components of a sample object such as grain sizes and inclusions including LIB. In this project, the novel technique will be employed to establish graphite flake size and impurities at a micron-scale in samples obtained from selected Canadian graphite mine and mineral processing sites. Complementary conventional mineralogical and chemical analysis (e.g. XRD, ICP-MS) will be used to validate the results from the CT scans.
The aims of the project are:
- to substantially advance our understanding of natural graphite by combining cross-disciplinary expertise
- to contribute to a more responsible and sustainable of graphite
- to connect global leaders in sustainable resource development (RWTH Aachen University) with chemical engineering expertise (University of Alberta)
The Graphite Research Alliance consists of geoscientists and engineers from the University of Alberta and RWTH Aachen University. The project is funded by the International Research Space of RWTH Aachen University and the University of Alberta.