A rare-earth metal enigma is solved


A rare-earth metal enigma is solved

15th Nov 2018

James Cook University scientists can now predict where a rare-earth metal vital for wind-turbines, electric vehicles and generators can be found – and they say it may lead to an economic bonanza for Australia.

A new study published in the journal Economic Geology by James Cook University PhD student Teimoor Nazari-Dehkordi and colleagues has uncovered the enigmatic geological origins of valuable rare metal ores rich in dysprosium.

The metal is used to create magnets because it is resistant to demagnetisation at high temperatures – an especially important quality for magnets found in electric motors and generators.

Mr Nazari-Dehkordi said that rare-earth metals are crucial for sustaining modern societies.

“Global demand for dysprosium and other rare-earth elements will grow rapidly in the coming decades as we transition to a clean energy society, and securing dysprosium supplies into the future is of utmost importance.”

For the full story, go to James Cook University 

Source: James Cook University


Supercharging battery metals

31st Oct 2018

As more and more electric vehicles take to our roads, and more and more renewable energy flows into our energy mix, battery technologies become more crucial.

The electric vehicle market is predicted to grow 10-fold by 2030 and 50-fold by 2050.

So, as the demand for battery technology increases so too does the demand for the raw materials that go into them.

As a country rich in natural resources, Australia is well placed to jump on growth in battery metals.

Raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and vanadium are Australian commodities which are becoming more and more sought after.

Innovation offers a way to add greater value to these resources.

For example, increasing the quality or purity of the end product or producing the metals in a way that’s more environmentally-friendly.

For the full story, go to Csiro

Source: Csiro


Scientists may have solved one of the biggest problems holding back hydrogen-powered vehicles

13th Aug 2018

One of the biggest obstacles the hydrogen fuel industry is faced with — its transportation and storage — may have been solved by scientists at the CSIRO.

With some of the world’s biggest car companies, including Toyota, Hyundai and BMW, betting on hydrogen as a future fuel source, the national science agency has developed membrane technology to refuel cars using ammonia.

Two fuel cell vehicles, a Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo, have been successfully refuelled using ultra-high purity hydrogen produced in Queensland.

Unlike electric charge cars, hydrogen-cell vehicles can be refuelled in minutes with a range up to twice that of electric vehicles run on batteries. Technological advances are also helping to drive down the production costs of renewable hydrogen to make it cost competitive with oil-based fuel.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall says the technology, via a modular unit, paves the way for bulk hydrogen to be transported in the form of ammonia, using existing infrastructure, then reconverted back to hydrogen at the point of use, plugging the gap in the technology chain to supply fuel cell vehicles.

For the full story, go to Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


Ergon Energy Apprenticeships open for application

08th Aug 2018

Want to learn a trade and get paid from day one? Our apprenticeship program might be just what you’re looking for.

There’s a variety of trades to choose from and, when you finish your apprenticeship, you’ll be fully qualified in your chosen trade. It’s a great way to start your career!

To learn more, go to Ergon Energy

Source: Ergon Energy


Resurgent resources boosting jobs in Queensland

05th Aug 2018

Queensland’s resources sector is powering jobs growth across the State with mines re-opening, exploration surging and exports rising said the Queensland Resources Council (QRC).

QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said the State’s most valuable export is delivering more than 3,500 jobs across Queensland in 2018 after a sustained uplift in the global economy.

“Resources account for about 80 per cent of Queensland’s exports and over the last two years the sector has benefitted from elevated prices and a strong tailwind from larger volumes,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“With confidence returning, new projects are emerging, old mines are being extended and mothballed mines are coming back online. We’re seeing strong investment in new gas fields and all this activity is leading to highly skilled and highly paid jobs. SEEK has more than 1,400 vacancies in mining, resources and energy in Queensland with more than half paying $100,000 or more.

For the full story, go to Queensland Resources Council

Source: Queensland Resources Council


Robot orchestra asks people to make old tech into something amazing

31st Jan 2018

Ever wondered what happened to your old floppy disk drives? Some of them might be making music as part of the Robot Orchestra in the UK.
Many of the musicians in this robot orchestra are made from old, recycled or obsolete bits of tech, like floppy disk drives. Others are classics with a twist, including motorised violas, glockenspiels and even a didgeridoo.

The conductor of this orchestra is Danielle George, an electronics engineer and professor at the University of Manchester. Her mission: to get more people making robots making music. She calls it a “citizen engineering project”, designed to get adults and kids interested in STEM by thinking differently about what robots can do.

The project was launched in 2016, and the robot musicians have come from across the UK, built by researchers, musicians, artists, engineers and children.

Click here to view video and rest of article on Create Engineering


Footy finals and fuel cells: Powering the MCG

05th Oct 2017

Whether you’re a footy fan or a clean energy enthusiast, September is set to be an exciting month at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Australia’s favourite patch of turf has some massive energy demands, whether they be lights, electronic score boards, or air conditioning.

No matter the season, the ‘G requires a significant amount of energy – equivalent to the amount required to power around 4,000 homes for a year. Its sheer scale means there are many opportunities to apply innovative energy technologies in order to keep the lights on, sustainably.

CSIRO are working with the Melbourne Cricket Club (stadium manager of the MCG) and their new electricity partner EnergyAustralia to explore the use of hybrid energy systems based on renewable energy, hydrogen, fuel cells and battery storage to better manage the stadium’s electricity consumption and reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Fuel cells or batteries … why not both?

Fuel cells and batteries convert chemical energy into electricity through an electrochemical reaction:

Fuel cells combine gases oxygen (from air) and hydrogen (from a fuel tank).
Batteries combine chemicals stored within their electrodes inside the battery.

So why use a fuel cell instead of a battery, and how can both be used in a hybrid system?

The first reason relates to the fuel – you can store much more energy in a fuel than you can in a battery because a fuel tank is much cheaper than battery electrodes. This makes it cheaper per unit of energy to store energy in a fuel – energy normally measured in kilowatt hours (kWh).

As well as being cheaper, a fuel like hydrogen can be stored indefinitely in a tank, whereas batteries slowly drain once charged.

For the full story, go to CSIRO Scope

Source: CSIRO


What to know about graphite: the mineral of extremes

05th Oct 2017

With the rise of electric cars and energy storage, graphite – a mineral made of carbon – is poised to be hot on the commodity market to meet demand for lithium-ion batteries.

A mineral of extremes, graphite is the strongest and stiffest naturally occurring material, while contrastingly soft and lightweight. It’s also heat resistant with a high melting point, similar to that of a diamond. These properties, coupled with high conductivity, make graphite critical for use in batteries.
Positively charged demand

Specifically, graphite is needed for battery anodes, the positively charged electrode through which the current flows. While graphite has been used as a key ingredient in anodes in all kinds of batteries for decades, lithium-ion batteries contain proportionately about double the amount of graphite.

To put this into perspective, there is estimated to be 54kg of graphite in the batteries used in each Tesla Model S (85 kWh).

But, not all graphite is equal.

Graphite comes naturally and abundantly in three different forms: ‘crystal’ flake, lump and amorphous. Only high purity (>99.9 per cent) graphite flake is capable of producing the level of electrical conductivity needed to be considered ‘battery-grade’.

About one million tonnes of the mineral is sold annually worldwide. Most of the world’s graphite supply comes from China and Brazil, so a lot of work is going into diversifying the sources of graphite to meet the increasing demand predicted for the future.

Companies seeking to get a competitive edge in this market, are finding ways to improve their production processes so that they can recover more graphite flake, at the highest level of purity possible.

Importance of understanding how graphite forms

Graphite is a metamorphic mineral that has undergone transformation deep underground as a result of heat, pressure and flowing fluid. Graphite flake crystals grow with increasing temperature – upwards of 750 degrees Celsius – as organic matter such as dead bacteria or plants in younger rocks is “cooked up” and converted to graphite.

To read the full article, go to CSIRO Scope

Source: CSIRO


How a battery works

13th Apr 2016


  • A battery is a device that stores chemical energy and converts it to electrical energy.
  • The chemical reactions in a battery involve the flow of electrons from one material (electrode) to another, through an external circuit.
  • The flow of electrons provides an electric current that can be used to do work.
  • To balance the flow of electrons, charged ions also flow through an electrolyte solution that is in contact with both electrodes.
  • Different electrodes and electrolytes produce different chemical reactions that affect how the battery works, how much energy it can store and its voltage.

Imagine a world without batteries. All those portable devices we’re so dependent on would be so limited! We’d only be able to take our laptops and phones as far as the reach of their cables, making that new running app you just downloaded onto your phone fairly useless.

Luckily, we do have batteries. Back in 150 BC in Mesopotamia, the Parthian culture used a device known as the Baghdad battery, made of copper and iron electrodes with vinegar or citric acid. Archaeologists believe these were not actually batteries but were used primarily for religious ceremonies.

The invention of the battery as we know it is credited to the Italian scientist Alessandro Volta, who put together the first battery to prove a point to another Italian scientist, Luigi Galvani. In 1780, Galvani had shown that the legs of frogs hanging on iron or brass hooks would twitch when touched with a probe of some other type of metal. He believed that this was caused by electricity from within the frogs’ tissues, and called it ‘animal electricity’.

To read the full article, click here.

Source: NOVA


Graphite: An old product with new uses opens up opportunities for Queensland

12th Apr 2016

Carbon is the fifteenth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and is the basis for all life forms on Earth. It is one of the lighter elements on the periodic table coming in at number six. Various forms of carbon (mainly graphite) have an increasing usage in modern technologies – a trend which is accelerating as product research progresses. Appropriate forms of graphite for use in industrial applications are increasingly being sought.

Recent exploration in Queensland has identified a promising graphite occurrence north of Cloncurry, and this deposit may be developed as a resource for future production. Another possible graphite resource is also being explored south of Croydon.

What is Graphite?

Graphite is an allotrope of carbon which comprises simple hexagonal arrangements of carbon atoms in a platy fabric. Other allotropes of carbon include amorphous carbon and diamond.
It is one of the softest known substances.
Graphite’s earliest use was in ‘lead’ pencils for writing on paper.
At atmospheric pressure it has no melting point (it sublimes at temperatures ~53000C) and remains solid at higher temperatures than metals such as tungsten or rhenium.
Graphite is a conductor of electricity. Some forms are used for thermal insulation but other forms are good thermal conductors.

Graphite occurs in three forms in nature:

Amorphous graphite (lowest value and most of the world’s deposits)
Flake graphite (less common and higher value than amorphous graphite)
Vein or lump graphite (plumbago; highest quality/price)

How do we use Graphite?

Graphite has a number of traditional uses, including refractory applications (foundry facings, crucibles, retort linings), brushes in electric motors, dry cells ‘lead’ pencils, and as an additive in paints, lubricants and stove polishes.

The automotive industry has also adopted graphite for use in brake linings, gaskets, clutch materials and dry lubricants, while elsewhere it has been adopted for use in fire retardants and reinforcements in plastics. Graphite is now also used in nuclear reactors to control the speed of the nuclear fission reaction.

More recently, the market for graphite has begun to expand incrementally reflecting its use in a number of green technologies including lithium ion batteries, fuel cells, flow batteries and the expansion of nuclear power sector. Many of these applications have the potential to consume more graphite than all present uses combined. The proliferation of batteries used in the development of electric cars will further drive increased graphite demand in the future. Battery grade graphite involves production of a new form of graphite – spherical graphite. The manufacture of spherical graphite requires chemical modification of flake graphite and at present is mainly performed in China. However other parts of the world are seeking to manufacture the product.

A new carbon-based compound, graphene, has also been developed from flake graphite. Graphene is a two-dimensional hexagonal lattice of pure graphite one atom thick which is very strong and efficiently conducts heat. It is 100 times as strong as steel and has exciting uses in areas such as battery technology and conductive coatings.

Some of the research for future uses of graphene include:

Flexible solar cells
Smart wallpaper which collects heat and generates electricity
‘Intelligent’ windows with virtual curtains
Clothing impregnated with graphene which can charge our mobile phones as we walk
‘Smart’ paint on our cars
Graphene cables to transmit heat from deep geothermal resources.


To find out more, including where and how graphite is found in Queensland, click here.

Source: DNRM Mining Journal

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