First Graphite Limited (ASX:FGR) Executive Director Peter Youd talks about the company's graphene facility, its strategy to be a low-cost producer and the applications for graphene now and over the next 5-10 years.
Jessica Amir: Hello I’m Jessica Amir from the Finance News Network. Joining me from First Graphite (ASX:FGR) is Executive Director, Peter Youd. Peter, welcome back.
Peter Youd: Thank you Jessica.
Jessica Amir: First up, for those new to First Graphite. Can you give us an introduction to the company?
Peter Youd: First Graphite is an advanced materials company. We produce graphene from high grade Sri Lankan graphite. And we’ve developed a method to produce this graphene that is low cost, produces bulk quantity and a high quality of graphene. And this is going to lead to advances in material technologies. We aim to take this competitive advantage, together with the intellectual properties that we’re licensing, and generate revenues from that.
Jessica Amir: Tell us what’s been taking place at the company?
Peter Youd: We’ve got a lot of things going on at the moment and they’re all fairly exciting. Down at Henderson, we’re building a commercial graphene facility that when optimised, will be able to produce about 90 tonnes per annum. That’s going to be opened by Josh Wilson, the member for Fremantle, in November. At Flinders University, we’re working on a Vortex Fluidic Device, or VFD. It’s going to be able to produce graphene oxide, using water as the solvent. And that’s going to be a huge advantage for graphene oxide, which is currently produced by a method that uses harmful chemicals, and creates quite a bit of toxic waste.
And at Swinburne University, we’re working on the best battery, which is a super capacitor that will have the capacity to replace AA batteries, or lithium ion batteries. Particularly because it’s got a faster charging time and because it’s not a chemical process, it’ll last much longer. So it’s about physics and it’s a game changer.
Jessica Amir: With all these developments and innovation. What are the company’s funding requirements?
Peter Youd: Fortunately we’ve got enough cash to be able to do these projects as it is. We’re also going to be recipients of Government research and development refunds, and also a CRCP grant that we’ve applied for.
Jessica Amir: Now to the business case for graphene. What makes it so unique and can you tell us where it’s being used?
Peter Youd: What makes it unique is the conductivity for both electricity and heat that it has, and the enormous strength that it has. The uses for it are almost limitless. But it is beginning to be used in both electronics, in advanced materials and in strengthening ordinary materials such as cement.
Jessica Amir: What’s involved in producing graphene?
Peter Youd: In our case it’s a relatively simple process. We use electrochemical exfoliation, the carbon is actually peeled off, it’s then washed, dried and finishes up emerging in a powder form. That powder can then be redispersed into a customer’s application, such as blending with concrete to strengthen it.
Jessica Amir: What does that sell for per kilo or per tonne, and what will be your capacity out of your new Henderson plant?
Peter Youd: Henderson, when it’s fully optimised and running at 24/7 capacity, could produce 90 tonnes per annum. Graphene at the moment, graphene 8 graphene, there are different types of graphene and they all have different price points. But for example if you go onto some websites, it’ll cost you $47 a gram to buy graphene, which equates to an enormous tonnage price. But it needs to be fit for purpose and for example, our fire retardant graphene, will not be the same as graphene used in the electronics industry. We estimate that our graphene for fire retardants will only add about $US1.50 per square metre, to make ply board for example, fireproof.
Jessica Amir: Changing pace Peter. Can you tell us about your collaboration with the University of Adelaide?
Peter Youd: In Adelaide, we’re involved in their Australian Research Council hub. That’s got three streams that we’re working on; one of those is fire retardants. Now your viewers would be aware of the Grenfell fire disaster in June, in Britain. And last Monday week there was a Four Corners exposition, that showed that there were about 4,000 buildings in Melbourne that were clad, with either the same or a similar type of cladding. So we see an immediate and growing market for fire retardants. And in fact, I’d ask your viewers to look at our website and they can go to the videos that are there, that show the effectiveness of the fire retardants that we’re working on.
Jessica Amir: Last question now. Can you tell us about your goal for the next 12 months, and what’s your long-term ambition for the company?
Peter Youd: If I can break that into two parts. Over the next six months, what we want to do is complete our Henderson facility for commercial graphite production. We’ll work with Adelaide on the fire retardants and get with business partners, for the commercialisation of that. At Flinders University, the Vortex Fluidic Device or VFD, we want to advance that both for the production of graphene oxide, but also to use it as a potential delivery device for our graphene powders. And at Swinburne University, we will have a working prototype before the end of the year.
Longer-term, we want to be the preferred supplier of a premium graphene product for industry. We want to also leverage our graphene sales and the intellectual property that we’ve developed, in terms of sales revenue as well. In this regard, we’re working with Traxxas, which is a large commodities and materials organisation, in the development of this graphene market.
Jessica Amir: Peter Youd, thank you so much for the update.
Peter Youd: Thank you Jessica.