Archer Exploration (ASX: AXE) has begun the assembly and testing of several lithium-ion battery configurations incorporating spherical graphite from its Campoona graphite project in South Australia.
Tests to date have confirmed the graphite to be suitable for next-stage optimisation in lithium-ion battery manufacturing processes with potential offtake partners.
Small-scale mechanical mill processes produced feedstock material of approximately 40-micron flake size and a uniform 15-micron particle size for the tests.
Non-optimised processes were also employed to produce material ranging from 8-microns to 18-microns with broader size distributions to meet a key established market requirement for use in lithium-ion battery applications.
Full-cell and half-cell configurations which are functional and commercially-scalable were prepared and tested at the University of New South Wales, using Campoona graphite materials at the anode alongside cathode materials (lithium-iron phosphate and lithium-cobalt oxide) and chemistries found in consumer electronics and electric vehicles.
“The spherical graphite was successfully used to perform charge [and] discharge cycles in full-cell configurations using LFP and LCO cathodes,” Archer said.
“The electrochemical behaviour observed in [both] systems showed normal lithiation processes that proceed inside the respective full-cell configuration with graphitic materials.”
Investigations and testing is ongoing to assess the specific capacity and cycle stability performance indicators of the spherical graphite against LFP and LCO full-cells, as well as in lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt batteries.
In April 2018, Archer announced the graphite from Campoona to be “structurally near-perfect down to the atomic scale” and said it would commence the assembly of commercially-scalable, full-cell configuration lithium-ion batteries at UNSW.
In March, the company announced the successful conversion of 95% and 99%-plus natural flake graphite into high-value spherical graphite using proprietary technology developed by an undisclosed Japanese partner for integration into lithium-ion batteries.
Spherical graphite materials have a pricey entry point of up to US$4,400 per tonne for high-volume anode componentry used in the global lithium-ion battery market, which is forecast to grow to US$130 billion by 2028.
Most of this growth is expected to be concentrated in the Asia Pacific region.
“The production of high-value commodities for high-volume use downstream in the lithium-ion battery market directly aligns with [our] strategic focus in commercially exploiting a potential source of long-term revenue through vertical integration of the critical mineral value-chain,” the company said.
Archer said it would now investigate high-value added graphite product processes including spherical graphite coating and and graphite purification to maximise value from the Campoona project.
The company plans to pursue downstream partnership and development opportunities with lithium-ion battery manufacturers and end-users prior to the submission of a Program for Environmental Protection and Rehabilitation to South Australia’s Department of Energy and Mining by year end.
At mid-afternoon, shares in Archer were trading 13.64% higher at $0.125.