Author Archives: Nanthakumar Victor Emmanuel, P.Eng.

#NYTimes: European Battery Makers Power Up for a Green Recovery


August 13 (Reuters) – European battery makers are gearing up to take advantage of massive “green” stimulus packages unveiled since the coronavirus pandemic though many acknowledge it will be tough to match the Asian giants that dominate the mainstream market.

While Sweden’s Northvolt, and more recently France’s Verkor, are making a play for large-scale production, other European companies are focusing on niche markets and new technologies rather than taking on Chinese and South Korean firms with mass production of batteries destined for electric vehicles (EVs).

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Researchers develop a graphene oxide-based rapid test to detect infections


Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM have joined forces with partners in industry and healthcare to develop a handy graphene oxide-based sensor platform to detect acute infections such as sepsis or the antibodies against the coronavirus within minutes.

The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of detecting infections quickly and accurately to prevent further spread. Today, symptoms provide the clues that help diagnose viral or bacterial infections. However, many infections have similar symptoms, so these signs can easily be misread and the disease misdiagnosed. Blood tests provide certainty, but laboratories only carry these out when prescribed by the family physician. By the time the results arrive from the lab, doctors have often prescribed an antibiotic that may well be unnecessary.

Just one drop of blood for a diagnosis

Researchers at the Fraunhofer IZM in Berlin have been working on the project Graph-POC since April 2018 on a graphene oxide-based sensor platform to rise to precisely these challenges in diagnosing infections. A single drop of blood or saliva is all it takes to perform an accurate analysis. Just a few minutes after the drop is applied to the sensor’s surface, electrical signals convey the test result to the family doctor’s office. This rapid test provides certainty within just 15 minutes to replace the protracted blood work in the lab. It takes the error and guesswork out of diagnosis so the physician can prescribe the appropriate treatment or suitable antibiotics.

The test may also be set up to detect antibodies that are present after a patient has recovered from an infection. Fraunhofer IZM researchers are now focusing on this application to detect earlier infections with the COVID-19 virus, which can help with efforts to trace how the infection has spread. The human body forms molecules or proteins called biomarkers in response to an infection. Capture molecules placed on the surface of the graphene-based sensor to detect these biomarkers. Differential measurements of biomarkers’ concentration determine if an infection is present.

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First results of an upgraded device highlight lithium’s value for producing fusion


Lithium, the silvery metal that powers smart phones and helps treat bipolar disorders, could also play a significant role in the worldwide effort to harvest on Earth the safe, clean and virtually limitless fusion energy that powers the sun and stars. First results of the extensively upgraded Lithium Tokamak Experiment-Beta (LTX-β) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), demonstrate that the major enhancements operate as designed and improve the performance of the hot, charged plasma that will fuel future fusion reactors.

Fusion reactions combine light elements in the form of plasma—the state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei that makes up 99% of the visible universe—to release enormous amounts of energy. Physicists around the world are seeking to duplicate and control fusion reactions to create boundless safe, carbon-free power to generate electricity.

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#MSN News: #Tesla’s #Musk says open to supplying batteries to other automakers


SEOUL (Reuters) – Tesla Inc Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said on Tuesday that the company is open to licensing software and supplying powertrains and batteries.

Tesla has previously supplied batteries to Mercedes and Toyota Motor <7203.T> under separate partnership deals. Battery manufacturing is an area that analysts and industry officials say the U.S. electric car maker has a competitive edge compared with legacy automakers.

“Tesla is open to licensing software and supplying powertrains & batteries. We’re just trying to accelerate sustainable energy, not crush competitors!” Musk said in message on Twitter.

Tesla is also planning to build its own battery manufacturing facility at its Fremont, California, plant under its “roadrunner” project.

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#UK #Reuters: #US finds its #Chinese rare earth dependency hard to break


The U.S. Department of Defense has just committed funding for two rare earth separation plants on U.S. soil.

It’s one small step towards the Trump administration’s stated goal of breaking the country’s dependence on Chinese supplies of critical minerals.

But the direct involvement of the Pentagon underlines the scale of the task associated with creating from scratch a non-Chinese rare earths supply chain.

The United States was almost totally dependent on imports of rare earth compounds and metals last year, just as it was the year before and the year before that. China remained the largest supplier to the tune of around 80% of all imports, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

That reliance on China for minerals with critical uses across a wide spectrum of civilian and military applications is becoming ever more problematic as Sino-U.S. relations deteriorate.

However, to break it, as the United States is finding out, requires a mix of direct government support, alliances with like-minded countries, and a long-term focus on the six-stage process chain from ore to rare earth magnet.

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#Bloomberg: #Musk Promises ‘Giant Contract’ for Efficiently Mined #Nickel


Elon Musk has a plea for mining companies: “Please mine more nickel.”

“Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way,” said Musk, chief executive officer of the electric-carmaker, during a second-quarter earnings call.

Musk’s plea comes as one of Japan’s general trading giants is about to take a roughly $500 million write down on a nickel project in Madagascar because of low prices and the coronavirus pandemic.

Supplies of battery-grade nickel — a key component in the cathode of an electric vehicle’s battery — could run short as early as 2023. BloombergNEF expects a tight balance in the next two to three years as lithium-ion battery demand picks up.

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#Nickel demand from the batteries sector to account for over 25 percent of the total nickel market by 2030”

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Nickel is just one metal still facing hurdles, despite the rebound in prices it saw in Q2. During the first half of 2020, mining and refining facilities for nickel were disrupted at a global scale, from the Philippines to Canada, as a result of coronavirus containment measures.

“We expect primary refined nickel supply to decline by a little more than 1 percent year-on-year in 2020 because of the disruptions,” Roskill Senior Analyst Jack Anderson told.

“By 2030, we forecast nickel demand from the batteries sector to account for a little over 25 percent of the total nickel market,” Anderson said. “These nickel-rich cathodes will also be joined by non-nickel-containing cathodes such as lithium iron phosphate, which is favored in the Chinese market for its lower cost and safety record in powering EVs.”

Despite the economic weakening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Europe and China have strengthened their EV subsidy programs and maintained their CO2 and EV targets, which Roskill believes will continue to support EV adoption and therefore nickel demand from the battery space.

As the second half of the year begins, the world continues to be challenged by the uncertainty from COVID-19, with commodities being no exception.

“For nickel, we are waiting to see whether the Indonesian NPI producers are impacted by any outbreaks in the locations they operate,” Anderson said. “This is significant because it supplies NPI to Chinese stainless steel mills as well as integrated domestic operations.”

He also pointed to several battery-grade nickel intermediate projects under construction in Indonesia.

“The timely development of these projects to produce battery-grade nickel to feed the lithium-ion battery market could be under threat,” the expert said. “Roskill believes that battery-grade nickel intermediates are the pinch point in the EV battery supply chain.”

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#Cobalt: #BMW the only carmaker with a direct to mine raw material sourcing approach


German luxury vehicle maker BMW signed a US$2.3 billion long-term deal earlier this month with Swedish battery maker Northvolt, the latest of such deals, as European carmakers try to compete with Tesla in the burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) market.

Tesla’s gigafactories and battery technology have long given it an edge in the EV market (Northvolt was started by two former Tesla executives), but when it comes to the sourcing of raw material for lithium-ion batteries, the California company faces the same challenges as traditional carmakers.

This makes another, much smaller deal BMW struck more significant in finding an advantage over Tesla and stealing a march on its German and Japanese competitors.

The Munich-based carmaker signed a five-year cobalt supply deal on July 10 with Moroccan miner Managem worth US$112 million. Managem owns Bou-Azzer in the Anti Atlas mountains, the only primary cobalt mine in the world and in operation since 1930.

BMW says the offtake agreement, first announced a year ago, covers one-fifth of its requirements for the NCM (nickel-cobalt-manganese) cathodes in its batteries, which together with Tesla’s NCA (nickel-cobalt-aluminum) represents more than 90% of the market.

The other 80% of the cobalt it needs comes from the Murrin Murrin mine in Australia, a Glencore (LSE: GLEN) owned operation, which makes BMW the only carmaker with a direct to mine raw material sourcing approach.

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#DOD: #COVID19 Pandemic Reveals Supply Chain Vulnerability

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“Not only for the rare earth elements or the microelectronics that we all know so well,” she added, “but also for the advanced pharmaceutical ingredients that go into our drugs that obviously are important for the nation and also very, very important for DOD” – Ellen M. Lord.

“Not only for the rare earth elements or the microelectronics that we all know so well,” she added, “but also for the advanced pharmaceutical ingredients that go into our drugs that obviously are important for the nation and also very, very important for DOD,” she said.

“We could have implants in those electronics,” she said. “So all of a sudden … we have U.S. systems calling home to China. We also have the theft of intellectual property that is very well documented, where what we think we licensed for a specific use is all of a sudden repurposed into capability organic to China.”

Other factors with off-shore manufacturing involve workers themselves, Lord said. “Manufacturing know-how accumulates with the experience of actually producing something — and that’s lost in the U.S. if workers here aren’t doing the work,” she said. And when work is done overseas, she added, it means Americans aren’t doing the work stateside.

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#NYTimes: #US Rare Earths Miner MP Materials to Go Public in $1.47 Billion Deal

Final China Minerals

U.S. rare earths miner MP Materials will go public in a $1.47 billion deal by merging with a private-equity backed blank-check company, underscoring Wall Street’s rising interest in efforts to boost U.S. production of the strategic minerals.

The listing on the New York Stock Exchange would be the first for a U.S. rare earths company since Molycorp went public a decade ago. Molycorp filed for bankruptcy in 2015 and MP Materials bought California’s Mountain Pass mine and other Molycorp asset in 2017.

The deal, announced on Wednesday, comes as President Donald Trump and other U.S. politicians push to resume domestic production and processing of rare earths, a group of 17 minerals used to build weapons and electronics.

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