Clean Technology Mineral Processing - Analysis and Research at NovoCarbon

NovoCarbon is working to create technological advantages within its target markets and industries by making use of a range of techniques and methods to measure the porous structure of various carbon-based materials. More specifically, the company uses the latest developments in these areas to attain a greater comprehension of the high-end usage of electrode material in applications such as fuel cells, supercapacitors, and batteries.

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Currently, NovoCarbon can confidently identify the specific material needed for almost any electrochemical process, offering considerable advantages to customers through their ability to recommend materials for applications based on the data that has been generated during their efficient and reliable testing processes.

Company Background

NovoCarbon is a Clean Technology Minerals Processing Company that works to provide innovative, high quality and value-added carbon products to their diverse customer base.

Historically, North America has not had a significant graphite producer, though as demand and pricing continue to develop, NovoCarbon has become one of the first domestic suppliers to a continually expanding regional customer base, thanks to their ongoing delivery of quality products and customer service.

NovoCarbon has an agreement in place for the long-term supply of high-end natural graphite concentrate from Brazil, as well as working with Shamokin Carbons – a respected processor for toll micronization services, based in the USA. The company has also worked alongside Ashland Advanced Materials to deliver commercial-scale purification operations within Ashland’s 110,000 square foot facility in Niagara, New York.

By working closely with their partners, NovoCarbon has been selling micronized synthetic graphite from 2016 and is now selling micronized and high purity micronized natural flake graphite products to an ever-expanding range of clients.

Ongoing Technical Advancement in Porous, Carbon and Graphite Materials

It is important for NovoCarbon to utilize a range of methods when measuring and analyzing the porous structure of the materials that they work with. This is primarily because the porous structure of graphite and other carbon-based materials is generally their most important characteristic, mainly where these materials are used in applications such as supercapacitors, fuel cell or batteries.

Being able to analyze variations between porous structures and pore size distribution, and, consequently the surface area of a range of carbon-based materials allows for more understanding of the electrode material used in fuel cells, batteries, and supercapacitors. Perhaps more importantly, having this specific knowledge opens up the possibility of improving these porous structures to make them better suited to the needs of particular energy storage applications.

Improving the Porous Structure

To give an example of this type of potential improvement, it is possible to compare two popular battery types – lithium ion and lithium air. While these battery types are similar in many ways, some of the most distinguished systems would prefer mesoporous materials to be used for the lithium ion and the graphite anode. This material would have a low distribution of pores within a narrow range, leading to reasonably low surface areas – around 20, 30 or 40 square meters per gram.

In contrast, lithium-air batteries or indeed modern fuel cells like hydrogen-air, solid-state fuel cells, hydrogen-oxygen, etc. would almost certainly require some form of microporous structure for the air cathode – around 300, 400 or 500 square meters per gram. This would require a wholly different approach to material preparation and processing.

Being able to differentiate between and characterize these materials is essential in developing the most efficient energy storage device.

The Process

The core goal of this process is the ability to distinguish which material (either in hand or from a supplier) will be better for which application.

NovoCarbon’s battery materials laboratory aims to establish this at the first stage of their process by looking at the structure, measured structure, and distinguished structure.

Next, the material is moved into the electrochemical testing stage where it is evaluated further by first testing separate electrodes (stage one) and then testing half cells and later batteries (stage two).

The whole process happens within one laboratory, beginning with an evaluation of the initial material then ending with a recommendation on the material’s suitability for electrodes used in batteries and fuel cells.

NovoCarbon’s HP2 Analysis

NovoCarbon’s testing methods are based on HP2 analysis, which is in turn based on a fundamental law of physics – Capillary Law. Capillary Law states that where two or more porous structures or materials are in close contact, then pores of the same size and radius will be filled, or not filled by a liquid entering the area.

The majority of porous materials fall into the hydrophilic or hydrophobic categories. Hydrophilic materials can be filled with a range of liquids (usually water, hence the ‘hydro’ part of the term) based on the size of the material’s pores. With hydrophobic materials, water would not be able to penetrate these pores. Exceptions to this rule include some organic solvents such as octane, decane or certain carbohydrates.

By exploring these properties and testing materials in this way, it is possible to distinguish between the overall pore size distribution and surface area of practically any porous material.

Once these differences are established, it is then possible to ascertain the surface area of hydrophobic pores by looking at their differences with hydrophilic pores and comparing the two.

Importance of Distinguishing Hydrophilic Materials from Hydrophobic Materials

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The ability to distinguish between hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials is immensely important because lithium-ion batteries – arguably the most commonly used format within modern electrochemical storage – rely on being able to make this distinction. This is not only because of performance but also in the interests of safety.

Over the past 20 years, the self-combustion of lithium-ion batteries has been well documented, and it is now known that one of the key causes of this is contact between the battery’s electrode and water.

If then, the material that should be used for lithium-ion battery electrodes can be distinguished, and this can be found to be highly hydrophobic, the issue of water contact can be eliminated, and the risks of incidents of lithium-ion battery self-combustion can be negated.

Challenges and Risks

NovoCarbon’s most prominent challenge has been that of taking their expertise and using this to start a viable, self-sustaining business within a challenging market. One of the most significant risks to their long-term strategy is that of market volatility, and while the market for battery materials is currently in a period of rapid growth, the area is continually developing, and there will be new chemistries and solutions that are almost certain to emerge. It will be essential for the company to keep abreast of all relevant developments in technology to minimize this risk.

Advantages of NovoCarbon

Thanks to their expertise and experience in the classification of their product range, NovoCarbon’s team can ensure that all their products meet strict quality control requirements. This classification allows them to confidently guarantee the performance of their products – particularly those that must be completely water-resistant.

Furthermore, manufacturers are now actively looking into lithium air and sodium-air batteries that are much better served by using highly hydrophilic materials (air electrodes need moisture to function), so again NovoCarbon’s ability to confidently guarantee their products’ performance is critical.

By effectively and efficiently classifying their products, NovoCarbon can offer high quality hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials suitable for a diverse range of applications; all designed, tested and guaranteed to meet customers’ needs.

The information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Novocarbon.

For more information on this source, please visit Novocarbon.

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