At AETC, one of our many specialties is our extensive knowledge and understanding of graphite powders. Graphite has been a prodigal part in the creation of our business and to this day, remains our most popular item. We have many resources which allow us to synthesize, characterize, and understand carbons and graphites. We source raw materials directly from mines or, in the case of materials of synthetic origin, work with precursor processing plants. We are able to beneficiate the graphitic precursor materials ourselves using our unique methods, and can clean and crush the material so as to prepare it for use in the value-added applications.
The value-added processing of graphite is one of our key strengths at AETC. We believe that value-add beneficiation cannot be efficiently performed at the mining or primary processing sites. The ability of a successful graphite producer to perform secondary (e.g. value-added) processing should be complemented by its ability to operate sophisticated processes and machinery; that requires a certain “production culture” to be in place. Should cross-contamination or other outcomes of ignorant production practice occur while processing a batch, the potential of ruining the mined powder is high, which, in turn, would not allow for battery-grade graphite to be produced. When the graphite is sent to us for processing, we use specialty equipment in order to prevent damage to the flake. Upon delivery to our facilities, AETC is able to fully characterize the graphite’s physical and structural properties and determine chemical impurities on a ppm level. We also can analyze varieties of size, as well as grind the powder, classify it, expand it, spheroidize it, and much more. With the technology we have available, we are able to take a low value powder and transform it to the level of a premium product.
Types of Graphite
At AETC, we work with several types of graphite powders, including natural crystalline flake, natural vein, amorphous and synthetic graphite, various forms of coal and organically-derived precursors, calcined petroleum coke, as well as a synthetically produced precursors based on various forms of carbon black, fibers and nanotubes. The variety of graphite which we work with allows us to also have the privilege of working with technologies from around the world in order to perfect our products. Technology such as industrial mills, big and small sieve screens, dust collection and separation, jet and vertical hammer mills, nanoscale grinding, wet grinding, and other mills that we operate at AETC are capable of changing the properties of the powders to a level of precision not even differentiable by the human eye. One specialty product, spherical graphite, is surface coated with a nanoscale layer of amorphous carbon, doped with silicon, and classified to a very narrow particle size distribution in order to be perfected. Such graphite can be applied in the most advanced lithium-ion batteries. Another graphite is intercalated, thermally exfoliated, delaminated, and de-volatilized for use in the lithium primary and alkaline batteries. It can also be also be an additive in plastics, used in composite brakes, and be made into industrial and plant coatings that poses the EMI shielding capability. Because of our extensive graphite and graphite-related knowledge, as well as our access to advanced and innovative milling and characterization technologies, we believe this opens our abilities to a larger market audience, and displays the versatility and flexibility which our company has to offer in regards to the value-added graphite processing.
There are many applications which our premium product is able to conform to, including but not limited to, batteries, industrial coatings, diamonds, powdered metallurgy, oil, gas, lubricants, and thermal management, to name a few. The graphite industry is segmented into ten main segments; however, by providing a high level of analysis, we are able to delve much deeper into the makeup of our product and significantly improve it so as to make it worthy of use in our everyday lives. Since there are (conservatively) around six hundred identifiable market applications for graphite, materials requirements can range broadly. Here at AETC, we operate unique instruments which allow us to produce our material to the end-use specification.
The recent years have witnessed the addition of new, state-of-the-art milling and classification technologies. Technologies for graphite sizing in the micron range have been historically reliant on mechanical milling. The mechanical mill allows us to continuously produce particles of graphite with a mean particle size of less than 25 microns following a single pass of a coarser precursor powder through the mill. For reference, a majority of hammer mills which are on the market can only produce a -325 mesh material following a single pass of powder through the mill. Expensive re-grinds are required, should the material be of such size, as it is not yet a battery-ready grade. However, with AETC’s state-of-the-art mechanical milling technology, we can produce finer-than-typical battery grade particles in a cost-effective, fully continuous manner. Internal testing using the commonly accepted techniques has demonstrated an absence of over-sized product exceeding 15 microns as a result of one pass through the mill, the results of which are very scarcely found in the milling world. Our success is, in part, due to the unique mill design, as well as intelligent raw material selection. This milling technique is unique and, arguably, the world’s best. In a single pass through the mill in continuous mode, we possess the ability to produce a D50 of less than 3.5 microns, and a D90 of less than 8 micron product. These results are often beyond the reach of many graphite producers throughout North America, making what we do especially unique. Our milling technology is outfitted with a mill of new and improved design and fabricated in North America by an established vendor.
In addition to our mill, our pilot line is outfitted with a cyclone-classifier, several high efficiency cyclones for fine particles, and a large baghouse. All components which encounter graphite flakes use specially engineered materials which avoid cross contamination of process graphite. Each day adds more research and technological development to how we can improve the product which we can make.
We also are in the midst of building a two pilot plants in addition to a currently operating research and development laboratory. A combination of all these elements allows us to produce specialized products for targeted applications like those listed above. Should a graphite prospector become interested in having AETC perform a pre-feasibility or bankable feasibility study for their project, or generate an industrial-sized sample for field programming, we invite you to reach out for more information!