In the fight against climate change, planting forests and the widespread adoption of electric vehicles are often promoted as two important mitigation tools in the climate change toolbox. Most people would not see or expect to see any direct link between trees and electric vehicles. A New Zealand company, CarbonsSape (www.carbonscape.com) has developed unique technology to change that.
CarbonScape’s patented technology transforms sawdust into sustainable graphite. The graphite is produced from sawdust using microwaves in a two-step process. Among the many uses of graphite, a growing demand comes from the lithium battery industry as 25% of a lithium battery is graphite. The graphite is used to construct electrodes in major battery technologies with lithium-ion batteries using twice as much as standard lithium batteries. By 2025 the annual graphite market for Li-ion batteries will reach USD 14 billion. A key driver of this increasing global demand is the growth in the electric vehicle market.
The current global demand for graphite is satisfied either from natural or synthetic graphite. Natural graphite is mined, with the principle export sources of mined graphite in order of tonnage: China, Mexico, Canada, Brazil and Madagascar. Synthetic graphite is produced from fossil fuels like oil and coal. The heavy residues left after the petroleum refining process are subjected to extremely high temperatures converting it into graphite. Both of these methods are neither sustainable nor environmentally friendly. There are also global supply concerns as China produces over 70% of the world’s graphite and 100% of the battery material.
CarbonScape’s technology based on wood as a raw material is CO2 negative in stark contrast to the current two alternative source methods which are both net emitters. CarbonScape claims that it can produce high quality, cost competitive graphite in an environmentally sustainable way whilst at the same time localizing graphite supply. The process requires roughly 10 tonnes of sawdust to produce 1 tonne of graphite. As “modern day carbon miners” CarbonScape recovers 90% of the fixed carbon and converts it into high value graphite Carbonscape will shortly begin a fund-raising phase for the construction of a demonstration plant to move their technology from pilot scale into production. CarbonScape’s vision is to install a graphite manufacturing plant next to large forest and timber-mills world-wide and are therefore looking to develop supply relationships with potential sawdust suppliers globally.
Margules Groome actively support innovative companies in the forest industry and this is an excellent example of turning a low value sawmill by-product into a high value sustainable product.