Saturday 23rd June 2018

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Posts tagged ‘aluminum’

Infographic: The history of North American co-operation on aluminum and steel

May 23rd, 2018

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist

As the global rhetoric around trade heats up, aluminum and steel are two metals that have been unexpectedly thrust into the international spotlight.

Both metals are getting considerable attention as journalists and pundits analyze how tariffs may impact international markets and trade relations. But in that coverage so far, one thing that may have been missed is the interesting history and context of these metals, especially within the framework of trade in North America.

Aluminum and steel in North America

This infographic tells the story of an ongoing North American partnership in these goods, and how this co-operation even helped U.S. and Canadian efforts in World War II, as well as addressing other issues of national security.

 

The history of North American co-operation on aluminum and steel

 

Aluminum and steel are metals that are not only essential for industry to thrive, but they are also needed to build infrastructure and ensure national security.

Because of the importance of these metals, countries in North America have been co-operating for many decades to guarantee the best possible supply chains for both aluminum and steel.

The history: Aluminum and steel

Here are some of the major events that involve the two metals, from the perspective of North American trade and co-operation.

1899
The Pittsburgh Reduction Company, later the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa), begins construction of a power plant and aluminum smelter in Shawinigan Falls, Quebec.

1901
The company produces the first aluminum ever on Canadian soil.

1902
This Canadian division is renamed the Northern Aluminum Company

New uses and WWI

1903
The Wright brothers use aluminum in their first plane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

1908
The first Model T rolls off the assembly line, and steel is a primary component.

1910
The U.S. and Canadian steel industries surround the Great Lakes region. At this point the U.S. produces more steel than any other country in the world.

1913
The U.S. passes the Underwood Tariff, a general reduction in tariff rates that affected Canadian exporters. Zero or near-zero tariffs were introduced for steel. (The Canadian Encylopedia)

1914
At this point, 80% of American-made cars had aluminum crank and gear cases.

World War I
The Great War breaks out. It’s the first ever “modern war” and metals become strategically important in a way like never before. For the first three years, the U.S. helps the Allies—including Canada, which is already at war—by providing supplies.

Steel was crucial for ships, railways, shells, submarines and airplanes. Meanwhile, aluminum was used in explosives, ammunition and machine guns. The Liberty V12 engine, which powered Allied planes, was one-third aluminum.

During this stretch, America produced three times as much steel as Germany and Austria. By the end of the war, military usage of aluminum is sucking up 90% of all North American production.

Inter-war period

1919
After the war, the interruption of European aluminum shipments to North America drives up Northern Aluminum sales to the United States. In 1919, U.S. aluminum imports from Northern Aluminum total 5,643 tons, while all European producers add up to 2,360 tons.

1925
After aluminum gains post-war acceptance from consumers, Alcoa uses this new momentum to strike a deal to build one of the world’s greatest aluminum complexes in Quebec on the Saguenay River.

These facilities become the base for Northern Aluminum, which changes its name to the Aluminum Company of Canada (Alcan). By 1927, the area includes a new company town (Arvida), a 27,000-ton smelter and a hydro power plant. This complex would eventually become the world’s largest aluminum production site for WWII.

1929
The Roaring Twenties saw consumer culture take off, with auto and appliance sales escalating. Steel and aluminum demand continues to soar.

World War II

1940
Canada and the U.S. establish the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, still in operation today. Near the same time, the Canadian-American defence industrial alliance, known as the Defence Production Sharing Program, is also established.

1941
Canada and the U.S. agree to co-ordinate production of war materials to reduce duplication, and to allow each country to specialize, with The Hyde Park Declaration of 1941.

The record proves that in peaceful commerce the combined efforts of our countries can produce outstanding results. Our trade with each other is far greater than that of any other two nations on earth.—Harry Truman,
33rd U.S. president, 1947

The principles of this declaration recognize North America as a single, integrated defence industrial base.

1942
Canada builds the Bagotville airbase to protect the aluminum complex and hydro plants of the Saguenay region, which were crucial in supplying American and Canadian forces. A Hawker Hurricane squadron is permanently stationed to protect the area.

1945
The Saguenay facilities were so prolific that Canada supplied 40% of the Allies’ total aluminum production.

Cold War and North American integration

1952
The U.S. focuses on Canadian resources after the President’s Materials Policy Commission warns of future shortages of various metals, which could make the U.S. dependent on insecure foreign sources during times of conflict.

1956
Canada and the U.S. sign the Defence Production Sharing Agreement, which aims to maintain a balance in trade for defence products. At this point, Canada relies on the U.S. for military technology—and the U.S. relies on Canada for important military inputs.

1959
The St. Lawrence Seaway opens, providing ocean-going vessels access to Canadian and U.S. ports on the Great Lakes. This facilitates the shipping of iron ore, steel and aluminum.

1965
The Canada-U.S. Auto Pact allows for the integration of the Canadian and U.S. auto industries in a shared North American market. This paves the way for iron ore, steel and aluminum trade.

1989
The U.S. and Canada sign a free trade agreement, which eventually gets rolled into NAFTA in 1994.

Modern aluminum and steel trade

2007
U.S. Steel buys the Steel Company of Canada (Stelco) for $1.9 billion.

Today
The U.S. and Canada are each other’s best international customer for a variety of goods—including steel and aluminum.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Visual Capitalist looks at China’s staggering demand for commodities

March 4th, 2018

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist

China’s staggering demand for commodities

 

Over 50% of all steel, cement, nickel and copper goes there

The Chart of the Week is a Friday feature from Visual Capitalist.

It’s said that in China, a new skyscraper is built every five days.

China is building often, and it’s building higher. In fact, just last year, China completed 77 of the world’s 144 new supertall buildings, spread through 36 different Chinese cities. These are structures with a minimum height of 656 feet (200 metres).

For comparison’s sake, there are only 113 buildings in New York City’s current skyline that are over 600 feet.

Unbelievable scale

It’s always hard to put China’s size and scope in perspective—and Visual Capitalist has tried before by showing you 35 Chinese cities as big as countries, or highlighting the growing prominence of the domestic tech scene.

This chart also falls in that category and it focuses on the raw materials that are needed to make all this growth possible.

Year of data Commodity China’s % of global demand Source
2017 Cement 59% Statista
2016 Nickel 56% Statista
2017 Coal 50% NAB
2016 Copper 50% Global X Funds
2017 Steel 50% World Steel Association
2017 Aluminum 47% MC Group
2016 Pork 47% OECD
2017 Cotton 33% USDA
2017 Rice 31% Statista
2017 Gold 27% China Gold Association, WGC
2017 Corn 23% USDA
2016 Oil 14% Enerdata

Note: Because this data is not all in one easy place, it is sourced from many different industry associations, banks and publications. Most of the data comes from 2017, but some is from 2016.

China demand > world

There are five particularly interesting commodity categories here—and in all of them, China’s demand equals or exceeds that of the rest of the world combined.

Cement: 59%
The primary ingredient in concrete is needed for roads, buildings, engineering structures (bridges, dams, etc.), foundations and in making joints for drains and pipes.

Nickel: 57%
Nickel’s primary use is in making stainless steel, which is corrosion-resistant. It also gets used in superalloys, batteries and an array of other uses.

Steel: 50%
Steel is used for pretty much everything, but demand is primarily driven by the construction, machinery and automotive sectors.

Copper: 50%
Copper is one of the metals driving the green revolution and it’s used in electronics, wiring, construction, machinery and automotive sectors primarily.

Coal: 50%
China’s winding down coal usage—but when you have 1.4 billion people demanding power, it has to be done with that in mind. China has already hit peak coal, but the fossil fuel does still account for 65% of the country’s power generated by source.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

U.S. releases draft list of 35 critical minerals, seeks public comment

February 21st, 2018

by Greg Klein | February 21, 2018

The world’s largest economy and strongest military has taken another step to mitigate some surprising vulnerabilities. On February 16 the U.S. Department of the Interior released a draft list of 35 minerals deemed critical to American well-being. The move follows December’s presidential executive order calling for a “federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” In response the U.S. Geological Survey compiled the new list, which now awaits input from the public. Americans have until March 19 to respond.

U.S. releases draft list of 35 critical minerals, seeks public comment

“The work of the USGS is at the heart of our nation’s mission to reduce our vulnerability to disruptions in the supply of critical minerals,” commented the DOI’s Tim Petty. “Any shortage of these resources constitutes a strategic vulnerability for the security and prosperity of the United States.”

The list defines “critical” as “a non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.”

Among them are “aluminum—used in almost all sectors of the economy; the platinum group metals—used for catalytic agents; rare earth elements—used in batteries and electronics; tin—used as protective coatings and alloys for steel; and titanium—overwhelmingly used as a white pigment or as a metal alloy.”

Just one day before Donald Trump issued the order, the USGS released a nearly 900-page report, the first thorough examination of the subject since 1973, detailing 23 critical minerals. All 23 made the new list, with 12 newcomers including scandium, uranium and tungsten. Rare earths come under a single category of 17 elements. The list can be seen here, with links to USGS reports on each mineral.

Speaking with ResourceClips.com days after the president’s order, Jeff Green called it the country’s “most substantive development in critical mineral policy in 20 years.” The U.S. Air Force Reserve colonel, former USAF commander and Washington defence lobbyist added that a new critical minerals policy would largely benefit American companies and supply chains. But he pointed out that Trump “also said that international co-operation and partnerships with our strongest allies will be really important.”

See the USGS draft list of 35 critical minerals.

Read more about the U.S. critical minerals initiative.

Visual Capitalist and VRIC 2018 look at the raw materials that fuel the green revolution

January 10th, 2018

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | January 10, 2018

 

Records for renewable energy consumption were smashed around the world in 2017.

Looking at national and state grids, progress has been extremely impressive. In Costa Rica, for example, renewable energy supplied five million people with all of their electricity needs for a stretch of 300 consecutive days. Meanwhile, the UK broke 13 green energy records in 2017 alone, and California’s largest grid operator announced it got 67.2% of its energy from renewables (excluding hydro) on May 13, 2017.

The corporate front also looks promising and Google has led the way by buying 536 MW of wind power to offset 100% of the company’s electricity usage. This makes the tech giant the biggest corporate purchaser of renewable energy on the planet.

But while these examples are plentiful, this progress is only the tip of the iceberg—and green energy still represents a small but rapidly growing segment. For a full green shift to occur, we’ll need 10 times what we’re currently sourcing from renewables.

To do this, we will need to procure massive amounts of natural resources—they just won’t be the fossil fuels that we’re used to.

Green metals required

Today’s infographic comes from Cambridge House as a part of the lead-up to its flagship conference, the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference 2018.

A major theme of the conference is sustainable energy—and the math indeed makes it clear that to fully transition to a green economy, we’ll need vast amounts of metals like copper, silicon, aluminum, lithium, cobalt, rare earths and silver.

These metals and minerals are needed to generate, store and distribute green energy. Without them, the reality is that technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, lithium-ion batteries, nuclear reactors and electric vehicles are simply not possible.

First principles

How do you get a Tesla to drive over 300 miles (480 kilometres) on just one charge?

Here’s what you need: a lightweight body, a powerful electric motor, a cutting-edge battery that can store energy efficiently and a lot of engineering prowess.

Putting the engineering aside, all of these things need special metals to work. For the lightweight body, aluminum is being substituted for steel. For the electric motor, Tesla is using AC induction motors (Models S and X) that require large amounts of copper and aluminum. Meanwhile, Chevy Bolts and soon Tesla will use permanent magnet motors (in the Model 3) that use rare earths like neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium.

The batteries, as we’ve shown in our five-part Battery Series, are a whole other supply chain challenge. The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs need lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and many other metals or minerals to function. Each Tesla battery, by the way, weighs about 1,200 pounds (540 kilograms) and makes up 25% of the total mass of the car.

While EVs are a topic we’ve studied in depth, the same principles apply for solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear reactors, grid-scale energy storage solutions or anything else we need to secure a sustainable future. Solar panels need silicon and silver, while wind turbines need rare earths, steel and aluminum.

Even nuclear, which is the safest energy type by deaths per TWh and generates barely any emissions, needs uranium in order to generate power.

The pace of progress

The green revolution is happening at breakneck speed—and new records will continue to be set each year.

Over $200 billion was invested into renewables in 2016 and more net renewable capacity was added than coal and gas put together:

Power Type Net Global Capacity Added (2016)
Renewable (excl. large hydro) 138 GW
Coal 54 GW
Gas 37 GW
Large hydro 15 GW
Nuclear 10 GW
Other flexible capacity 5 GW

The numbers suggest that this is only the start of the green revolution.

However, to fully work our way off of fossil fuels, we will need to procure large amounts of the metals that make sustainable energy possible.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference 2018 takes place at the Vancouver Convention Centre West from January 21 to 22. Click here for more details and free registration.

Visual Capitalist: One chart shows EVs’ potential impact on commodities

September 15th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | September 15, 2017

 

One chart shows EVs’ potential impact on commodities

The Chart of the Week is a Friday feature from Visual Capitalist.

 

How demand could change in a 100% EV world

What would happen if you flipped a switch and suddenly every new car that came off assembly lines was electric?

It’s obviously a thought experiment, since right now EVs have close to just 1% market share worldwide. We’re still years away from EVs even hitting double-digit demand on a global basis, and the entire supply chain is built around the internal combustion engine, anyways.

At the same time, however, the scenario is interesting to consider. One recent projection, for example, put EVs at a 16% penetration by 2030 and then 51% by 2040. This could be conservative depending on the changing regulatory environment for manufacturers—after all, big markets like China, France and the UK have recently announced that they plan on banning gas-powered vehicles in the near future.

The thought experiment

We discovered this “100% EV world” thought experiment in a UBS report that everyone should read. As a part of their UBS Evidence Lab initiative, they tore down a Chevy Bolt to see exactly what is inside, and then had 39 of the bank’s analysts weigh in on the results.

After breaking down the metals and other materials used in the vehicle, they noticed a considerable amount of variance from what gets used in a standard gas-powered car. It wasn’t just the battery pack that made a difference—it was also the body and the permanent-magnet synchronous motor that had big implications.

As a part of their analysis, they extrapolated the data for a potential scenario where 100% of the world’s auto demand came from Chevy Bolts, instead of the current auto mix.

The implications

If global demand suddenly flipped in this fashion, here’s what would happen:

Material Demand increase Notes
Lithium 2,898% Needed in all lithium-ion batteries
Cobalt 1,928% Used in the Bolt’s NMC cathode
Rare Earths 655% Bolt uses neodymium in permanent magnet motor
Graphite 524% Used in the anode of lithium-ion batteries
Nickel 105% Used in the Bolt’s NMC cathode
Copper 22% Used in permanent magnet motor and wiring
Manganese 14% Used in the Bolt’s NMC cathode
Aluminum 13% Used to reduce weight of vehicle
Silicon 0% Bolt uses six to 10 times more semiconductors
Steel -1% Uses 7% less steel, but fairly minimal impact on market
PGMs -53% Catalytic converters not needed in EVs

Some caveats we think are worth noting:

The Bolt is not a Tesla

The Bolt uses an NMC cathode formulation (nickel, manganese and cobalt in a 1:1:1 ratio), versus Tesla vehicles which use NCA cathodes (nickel, cobalt and aluminum, in an estimated 16:3:1 ratio). Further, the Bolt uses a permanent-magnet synchronous motor, which is different from Tesla’s AC induction motor—the key difference being rare earth usage.

Big markets, small markets

Lithium, cobalt and graphite have tiny markets, and they will explode in size with any notable increase in EV demand. The nickel market, which is more than $20 billion per year, will also more than double in this scenario. It’s also worth noting that the Bolt uses low amounts of nickel in comparison to Tesla cathodes, which are 80% nickel.

Meanwhile, the 100% EV scenario barely impacts the steel market, which is monstrous to begin with. The same can be said for silicon, even though the Bolt uses six to 10 times more semiconductors than a regular car. The market for PGMs like platinum and palladium, however, gets decimated in this hypothetical scenario—that’s because their use as catalysts in combustion engines are a primary source of demand.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Infographic: Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

May 8th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | May 8, 2017

Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

 

Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

The inner-workings of most commercialized batteries are typically pretty straightforward.

The lead-acid battery, which is the traditional battery used in the automotive sector, is as easy as it gets. Put two lead plates in sulphuric acid and you’re off to the races.

However, lithium-ion batteries are almost infinitely more complex than their predecessors. That’s because “lithium-ion” refers to a mechanism—the transfer of lithium ions—which can occur in a variety of cathode, anode and electrolyte environments. As a result, there’s not just one type of lithium-ion battery, but instead the name acts as an umbrella that represents thousands of different formulations that could work.

The cathode’s importance

This infographic comes to us from Nano One Materials TSXV:NNO, a Canadian tech company that specializes in battery materials, and it provides interesting context on lithium-ion battery advancements over the last couple of decades.

Since the commercialization of the lithium-ion battery in the 1990s, there have been relatively few developments in the materials or technology used for anodes and electrolytes. For example, graphite is still the material of choice for anodes, though researchers are trying to figure out how to make the switch to silicon. Meanwhile, the electrolyte is typically a lithium salt in an organic solvent (except in lithium-ion polymer batteries).

Cathodes, on the other hand, are a very different story. That’s because they are usually made up of metal oxides or phosphates—and there are many different possible combinations that can be used.

Here are five examples of commercialized cathode formulations and the metals needed for them (aside from lithium):

Cathode Type Chemistry Example Metal Portions Example Use
NCA LiNiCoAlO2 80% nickel, 15% cobalt, 5% aluminum Tesla Model S
LCO LiCoO2 100% cobalt Apple iPhone
LMO LiMn2O4 100% manganese Nissan Leaf
NMC LiNiMnCoO2 nickel 33.3%, manganese 33.3%, cobalt 33.3% Tesla Powerwall
LFP LiFePO4 100% iron Starter batteries

Lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, aluminum and iron are just some of the metals used in current lithium-ion batteries out there—and each battery type has considerably different properties. The type of cathode chosen can affect the energy density, power density, safety, cycle life and cost of the overall battery, and this is why researchers are constantly experimenting with new ideas and combinations.

Drilling down

For companies like Tesla, which wants the exit rate of lithium-ion cells to be faster than “bullets from a machine gun,” the cathode is of paramount importance. Historically, it’s where most advancements in lithium-ion battery technology have been made.

Cathode choice is a major factor for determining battery energy density and cathodes also typically account for 25% of lithium-ion battery costs. That means the cathode can impact both the performance and cost pieces of the $/kWh equation—and building a better cathode will likely be a key driver for the success of the green revolution.

Luckily, the future of cathode development has many exciting prospects. These include concepts such as building cathodes with layered-layered composite structures or orthosilicates, as well as improvements to the fundamental material processes used in cathode assembly.

As these new technologies are applied, the cost of lithium-ion batteries will continue to decrease. In fact, experts are now saying that it won’t be long before batteries will hit $80 per kWh—a cost that would make EVs undeniably cheaper than traditional gas-powered vehicles.

Related:

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Battery infographic series Part 4: The critical ingredients needed to fuel the battery boom

October 27th, 2016

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | October 27, 2016

The Battery Series will present five infographics exploring what investors need to know about modern battery technology, including raw material supply, demand and future applications.

 

The critical ingredients needed to fuel the battery boom

 

We’ve already looked at the evolution of battery technology and how lithium-ion technology will dominate battery market share over the coming years. Part 4 of the Battery Series breaks down the raw materials that will be needed for this battery boom.

Batteries are more powerful and reliable than ever and costs have come down dramatically over the years. As a result, the market for electric vehicles is expected to explode to 20 million plug-in EV sales per year by 2030.

To power these vehicles, millions of new battery packs will need to be built. The lithium-ion battery market is expected to grow at a 21.7% rate annually in terms of the actual energy capacity required. It was 15.9 GWh in 2015, but will be a whopping 93.1 GWh by 2024.

Dissecting the lithium-ion

While there are many exciting battery technologies out there, we will focus on the innards of lithium-ion batteries as they are expected to make up the vast majority of the total rechargeable battery market for the near future.

Each lithium-ion cell contains three major parts:

1. Anode (natural or synthetic graphite)

2. Electrolyte (lithium salts)

3. Cathode (differing formulations)

While the anode and electrolytes are pretty straightforward as far as lithium-ion technology goes, it is the cathode where most developments are being made.

Lithium isn’t the only metal that goes into the cathode—other metals like cobalt, manganese, aluminum and nickel are also used in different formulations. Here’s four cathode chemistries, the metal proportions (excluding lithium) and an example of what they are used for:

 

Cathode Type Chemistry Metals needed Example Use
NCA LiNiCoAlO2 80% Nickel, 15% Cobalt, 5% Aluminum Tesla Model S
LCO LiCoO2 100% Cobalt Apple iPhone
LMO LiMn2O4 100% Manganese Nissan Leaf
NMC LiNiMnCoO2 Nickel 33.3%, Manganese 33.3%, Cobalt 33.3% Tesla Powerwall

 

While manganese and aluminum are important for lithium-ion cathodes, they are also cheaper metals with giant markets. This makes them fairly easy to procure for battery manufacturers. Lithium, graphite and cobalt are all much smaller and less-established markets—and each has supply concerns that remain unanswered:

    South America: The countries in the Lithium Triangle host a whopping 75% of the world’s lithium resources—Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.

    China: 65% of flake graphite is mined in China. With poor environmental and labour practices, China’s graphite industry has been under particular scrutiny and some mines have even been shut down.

    Indonesia: Price swings of nickel can impact battery makers. In 2014, Indonesia banned exports of nickel, which caused the price to soar nearly 50%.

    Democratic Republic of Congo: 65% of all cobalt production comes from the DRC, a country that is extremely politically unstable with deeply rooted corruption.

    North America: Companies such as Tesla have stated that they want to source 100% of raw materials sustainably and ethically from North America. The problem? Only nickel sees significant supply come from the continent.

Cobalt hasn’t been mined in the United States for 40 years and the country produced zero tonnes of graphite in 2015. There is one lithium operation near the Tesla Gigafactory 1 but it only produces 1,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year. That’s not nearly enough to fuel a battery boom of this size.

To meet its goal of a 100% North American raw materials supply chain, Tesla needs new resources to be discovered and extracted from the U.S., Canada or Mexico.

Raw material demand

While all sorts of supply questions exist for these energy metals, the demand situation is much more straightforward. Consumers are demanding more batteries and each battery is made up of raw materials like cobalt, graphite and lithium.

Cobalt:

Today about 40% of cobalt is used to make rechargeable batteries. By 2019, it’s expected that 55% of total cobalt demand will go to the cause. In fact, many analysts see an upcoming bull market in cobalt.

In many ways, the cobalt industry has the most fragile supply structure of all battery raw materials.—Andrew Miller,
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

    Battery demand is rising fast

    Production is being cut from the Congo

    A supply deficit is starting to emerge

Graphite:

There are 54 kilograms of graphite in every battery anode of a Tesla Model S (85 kWh). Benchmark Mineral Intelligence forecasts that the battery anode market for graphite (natural and synthetic) will at least triple in size from 80,000 tonnes in 2015 to at least 250,000 tonnes by the end of 2020.

Lithium:

Goldman Sachs estimates that a Tesla Model S with a 70-kWh battery uses 63 kilograms of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE)—more than the amount of lithium in 10,000 cell phones. Further, for every 1% increase in battery electric vehicle market penetration, there is an increase in lithium demand by around 70,000 tonnes LCE per year.

Lithium prices have recently spiked but they may begin sliding in 2019 if more supply comes online.

The future of battery tech

Sourcing the raw materials for lithium-ion batteries will be critical for our energy mix. But the future is also bright for many other battery technologies that could help in solving our most pressing energy issues.

Part 5 of the Battery Series looks at the newest technologies in the battery sector.

See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the battery infographic series.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Battery infographic series Part 1: The evolution of battery technology

June 22nd, 2016

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | June 22, 2016

The battery series will present five infographics to inform investors how batteries work, the players in the market, the materials needed to build batteries and how future battery developments may affect the world. This is Part 1, which looks at the basics of batteries and the history of battery technology.

 

Battery infographic series part 1 The evolution of battery technology

 

Today, how we store energy is just as important as how we create it.

Battery technology already makes electric cars possible, as well as helping us store emergency power, fly satellites and use portable electronic devices. But tomorrow, could you be boarding a battery-powered airplane, or be living in a city powered at night by solar energy?

Battery basics

Batteries convert stored chemical energy directly into electrical energy. Batteries have three main components:

(-) Anode: The negative electrode that gets oxidized, releasing electrons.

(+) Cathode: The positive electrode that is reduced, by acquiring electrons.

Electrolyte: The medium that provides the ion transport mechanism between the cathode and anode of a cell. It can be liquid or solid.

At the most basic level, batteries are very simple. In fact, a primitive battery can even be made with a copper penny, galvanized nail (zinc) and a lemon or potato.

The evolution of battery technology

While creating a simple battery is quite easy, making a good battery is very difficult. Balancing power, weight, cost and other factors involves managing many trade-offs, and scientists have worked for hundreds of years to get to today’s level of efficiency.

Here’s a brief history of how batteries have changed over the years:

Voltaic pile (1799)

Italian physicist Alessandro Volta, in 1799, created the first electrical battery that could provide continuous electrical current to a circuit. The voltaic pile used zinc and copper for electrodes with brine-soaked paper for an electrolyte.

His invention disproved the common theory that electricity could only be created by living beings.

Daniell cell (1836)

About 40 years later, a British chemist named John Frederic Daniell would create a new cell that would solve the “hydrogen bubble” problem of the voltaic pile. This previous problem, in which bubbles collected on the bottom of the zinc electrodes, limited the pile’s lifespan and uses.

The Daniell cell, invented in 1836, used a copper pot filled with copper sulphate solution, which was further immersed in an earthenware container filled with sulphuric acid and a zinc electrode. The Daniell cell’s electrical potential became the basis unit for voltage, equal to one volt.

Lead-acid (1859)

The lead-acid battery was the first rechargeable battery, invented in 1859 by French physicist Gaston Planté.

Lead-acid batteries excel in two areas: they are very low-cost and they can also supply high surge currents. This makes them suitable for automobile starter motors even with today’s technology and it’s part of the reason $44.7 billion of lead-acid batteries were sold globally in 2014.

Nickel cadmium (1899)

Nickel cadmium batteries were invented in 1899 by Waldemar Jungner in Sweden. The first ones were “wet cells” similar to lead-acid batteries, using a liquid electrolyte.

Nickel cadmium batteries helped pave the way for modern technology but they are being used less and less because of cadmium’s toxicity. The batteries lost 80% of their market share in the 1990s to batteries that are more familiar to us today.

Alkaline batteries (1950s)

Popularized by brands like Duracell and Energizer, alkaline batteries are used in regular household devices from remote controls to flashlights. They are inexpensive and typically non-rechargeable, though they can be made rechargeable by using a specially designed cell.

The modern alkaline battery was invented by Canadian engineer Lewis Urry in the 1950s. Using zinc and manganese oxide in the electrodes, the battery type gets its name from the alkaline electrolyte used—potassium hydroxide.

Over 10 billion alkaline batteries have been made in the world.

Nickel-metal hydride (1989)

Similar to the rechargeable nickel cadmium battery, the nickel-metal hydride formulation uses a hydrogen-absorbing alloy instead of toxic cadmium. This makes it more environmentally safe—and it also helps increase the energy density.

Nickel-metal hydride batteries are used in power tools, digital cameras and some other electronic devices. They also were used in early hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius.

The development of nickel-metal hydride spanned two decades and was sponsored by Daimler-Benz and Volkswagen AG. The first commercially available cells were in 1989.

Lithium-ion (1991)

Sony released the first commercial lithium-ion battery in 1991.

Lithium-ion batteries have high energy density and a number of specific cathode formulations for different applications. For example, lithium cobalt dioxide (LiCoO2) cathodes are used in laptops and smartphones, while lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (LiNiCoAlO2) cathodes, also known as NCAs, are used in the batteries of vehicles such as the Tesla Model S.

Graphite is a common material for use in the anode and the electrolyte is most often a type of lithium salt suspended in an organic solvent.

The rechargeable battery spectrum

There are several factors that could affect battery choice, including cost. However, here are two of the most important factors that determine the fit and use of rechargeable batteries specifically:

Think of specific energy as the amount of water in a tank. It’s the amount of energy a battery holds in total. Meanwhile, specific power is the speed at which that water can pour out of the tank. It’s the amount of current a battery can supply for a given use.

And while today the lithium-ion battery is the workhorse for gadgets and electric vehicles, what batteries will be vital to our future? How big is that market? Find out in the rest of the battery series. Parts 2 through 5 will be released throughout the summer.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

See Part 2 of the battery infographic series.

December 2nd, 2015

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December 1st, 2015

Why Argentina’s new leader is good for Latin America and global investors GoldSeek
The upside of a down mining market Streetwise Reports
They still can’t put a price on this diamond Equities Canada
Chinese stocks fall after two major brokerages announce they are under investigation Stockhouse
Chinese aluminum, nickel producers ask state to buy up surplus metal NAI 500
UK housebuilding to boost clay demand Industrial Minerals
Dr. Clay: That mud bath might actually be good for you Geology for Investors