As I recently pointed out in my article for NAATBatt International, the United States is simply not a major world player in graphite production at this time. With the ever-increasing demand for Lithium-ion batteries, the U.S. has grown dependent on batteries manufactured elsewhere, and subsequently has fallen victim to the supply chain issues surrounding this sector. In this article, I’d like to highlight how Forge Nano is already working with key partners to reshape the graphite supply chain.
Thanks to innovation partnerships with graphite manufacturers like Mineral Commodities, Nouveau Monde Graphite, and Gratomic, Forge Nano has been able to validate both the performance and cost benefits of employing atomic layer deposition (ALD) technology in the preparation of graphite for use in battery manufacturing.
One of the primary ways in which ALD is changing the graphite game is in the coating process. One of the traditional methods of coating graphite is with carbon pitch, a process that is expensive, energy intensive, inefficient, and results in a poorly coated graphite powder. Forge Nano’s process uses our proprietary ALD equipment and formulas to produce a more consistent and uniform coating at less cost, in less time, and with less harmful emissions. For those interested in the numbers, Forge Nano’s ALD coatings can be performed at 4x the rate, less than 50% of the operation cost, less than 50% of the capital cost, and 70% lower emissions when compared to traditional pitch coating.
So what about performance? What good is a cheaper, greener and more efficient manufacturing process if the end result is no better?
Batteries made with Forge Nano’s ALD-coated graphite enjoy a host of advantages over those made with pitch-coated graphite, including higher energy density, increased lifetime, faster charging, improved safety and lower production costs. One of the most promising elements is that ALD-coatings make the graphite, and therefore the batteries, more easily recyclable – an immensely important aspect when talking about finite resources that are costly to extract from the earth.
This technology is not just theoretical, either. Our ALD treatments have been validated by our partners in various industries to improve the performance, safety and longevity of batteries in applications ranging from electric vehicles and aerospace to consumer durables and even grid storage.
Part of the reason for our success, and what makes me so excited about our future, is that we are a true innovation and commercialization partner. We don’t just sell you equipment and leave you to figure out how to put it to use; our researchers and surface engineers work with you to develop a customized ALD solution for your needs. The result is improved graphite performance due to superior coatings, but also an improved manufacturing process thanks to reduced costs, reduced use of energy, reduced environmental impact, and reduced supply chain risk.
The American Graphite (R)evolution may just be getting started, but we are excited to be pioneering technologies that will help push the U.S. to the forefront, unlocking critical jobs and striving towards energy security and independence.
James Trevey Ph. D, CTO of Forge Nano, is an entrepreneur, an expert in Li-ion batteries and supply chain, and a thought leader in materials science and technology scaling. He is an Officer of NAATBatt and Vice Chair of the Military Power Sources Committee (MPSC), among numerous other advisory boards, where he is an active supporter and enabler of collaborative industry and government relations focused on energy security.