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Sustainable Conversion of Lignocellulose to High-Purity, Highly Crystalline Flake Potato Graphite

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journal contribution
posted on 06.08.2018 by Nathan A. Banek, Dustin T. Abele, Kevin R. McKenzie, Michael J. Wagner
The carbon net negative conversion of biochar, the byproduct of pyrolysis bio-oil production from biomass, to very high-purity (99.95%), highly crystalline flake graphite that is essentially indistinguishable from high-grade commercial Li-ion grade graphite, is reported. The flake size of the graphite is determined by the physical dimensions of the metal particles imbedded in the biochar, demonstrated in the range of micrometers to millimeters. “Potato”-shaped agglomerates of graphite flakes result when the flake diameter is in the 1–5 μm range. The process is shown to work with a variety of biomass, including raw lignocellulose (sawdust, wood flour, and corn cob) and biomass components (cellulose and lignin), as well as lignite. The synthesis is extremely rapid and energy efficient (0.25 kg/kWh); the graphite is produced with a very high yield (95.7%), and the energy content of its coproduct, bio-oil, exceeds that needed to power the process. The demonstrated process is a tremendous advance in the sustainability of graphite production, currently commercially mined or synthesized with very high environmental impacts, and results in a value-added product that could economically advantage carbon-neutral bio-oil production.