Innovative Graphites - Getting the most out of the high-tech raw material
Every pencil contains a core made from graphite. But putting words on paper is not the only thing this industrial mineral is capable of. Besides being highly lubricious, graphite is a good thermal and electric conductor, making it essential as an additive or material used in the steelmaking, automotive, glass and electronics industries.
In 2011, the EU commission declared the mineral as a critical raw material. While graphite is in great demand across the globe, 90 percent of the world’s supply originates in only a few countries outside of Europe. The “Innovative Graphite” project, a collaboration between the Montanuniversitaet Leoben and the graphite mining company Kaisersberg GmbH, aims to investigate ways to secure Austria’s supply of innovative graphite products.
Improving security of supply involves among other things: assessing Austria’s own deposits, creating a better overview of the achievable functional properties of graphite products and how these may be exploited by industry, and investigating new processing methods. Drilling at the underground mining operations in Kaisersberg revealed further graphite layers in the depths and an optimized mining plan has been developed to take advantage of this discovery.
Electrostatic separation as a new processing technique
New processing techniques will make it possible to process graphite ores deeply embedded in the waste rock to marketable products, as well as to refine globally available, cheap intermediates to high-tech products in Austria. This will create more value for Austria while reducing domestic industry’s dependency on imports. Currently, the preferred processing method for enriching graphite is usually flotation.
Now pilot experiments, involving electrostatic separation as a dry and low-cost process, are being conducted at the Montanuniversitaet Leoben to test its possible fields of application and limitations. Furthermore, a product database is being created that matches the achievable functional properties of graphite products produced by these means with potential industrial applications.
The idea is that if the functional properties of the producible graphite products can be better matched, the result will be a wider range of potential applications.
Other Consortium Partners
- Montanuniversitaet Leoben, Chair of Mineral Processing
- Montanuniversitaet Leoben, External Institute
- Grafitbergbau Kaisersberg GmbH