“Our ability as a nation to manufacture defense technologies and support our military is dangerously dependent on our ability to access rare earth elements and critical minerals mined, refined, and manufactured almost exclusively in China.” – Senator Ted Cruz
When we at Urbix got a sense of how precarious our country’s situation was for a critical mineral, we set out to find a solution before it was too late. The clock is ticking.
Peacetime. Wartime. Clean energy. To maintain our style of life.
Graphite is an essential mineral. We need graphite to keep the best of what we do moving forward. I’ll explain.
You say the word “graphite” and many people think of number 2 pencils. But graphite is so much more.
We like to see Teslas zipping around. They are not possible without graphite. Arizona boasts one of the largest sources of clean energy at Palo Verde Nuclear generating station. Again, not possible without graphite. And, if you believe in storing solar power: it just isn’t possible without graphite.
Simply put, graphite is part of everyone’s every day, including energy storage and batteries, nuclear applications, steel refractory lubricants, automotive parts, water treatment, smart materials, and so on.
Graphite is a versatile non-metal that possesses unique thermal, chemical, and electrical properties, and it is a driving factor in new innovations and applications, including graphene, “the new plastics.”
At present, the challenge to the United States’ graphite supply chain is very real and relies nearly entirely on China. Here are the facts:
• The U.S. imports all of its natural graphite. At present, more than 95 percent of purified graphite comes from China.
• Roughly 22 percent of any lithium-ion battery is made up of a very expensive, refined, and purified form of graphite
• 19 percent of American electricity consumption is derived from nuclear energy and nuclear reactors require purified graphite to prevent them from melting down.
• At least eight battery gigafactories will be constructed in the U.S. by the mid-2020s and they will all need graphite to make their batteries
With all of this in mind, in 2017, a presidential executive order was signed designating graphite as a critical mineral. At that time, Arizona’s very own homegrown company, Urbix was well underway to answering the questions that this executive order posed. Among them: how could the graphite supply chain be secured so that the U.S. would always be able to have a dependable source of refined graphite on hand?
Not only does Urbix have the answer, our response is cleaner, greener, and more cost effective than that offered by anyone else. Urbix’s process is the only graphite purification technology to receive U.S. Department of Energy funding.
Unlike virtually all of the alternatives, the Urbix solution is green and clean. It is environmentally conscious and does not use hydrofluoric acid or the high temperature ovens others use.
The Urbix method consumes 1/25th of the energy and 1/100th of the space of the next best alternative and, unlike those other methods, the entire process can be executed in a light industrial zone. Additionally, Urbix’s purification technology will eventually also be utilized to purify rare earth elements plus gold, copper, and recycled graphite from used batteries.
Our technology was 100 percent developed in the United States and has helped us receive national and international recognition as a true clean tech company and a leader in the clean energy field.
The Urbix pilot purification facility was completed early in 2020 and is now at Technology Readiness Level 6. We are the only company in the U.S. doing this, and our home is right here in Arizona.
Without our solution, the clean energy future we strive for could be in jeopardy.
Congress has taken notice, as has the Department of Energy. With the action being taken now to utilize the Urbix solution, our country places itself strongly on the path of the future we all strive for.
Nico Cuevas is chairman and co-founder of Urbix Resources