What is Natural Graphite Used For?

The US President recently said the conflict between Russia and Ukraine had driven up the prices of all the world's major food staples, including wheat, corn, barley, oilseeds and edible oils, and that Russia and Ukraine together supplied more than 25% of the world's wheat exports and about 20% of its barley exports. 

To address the food shortage, the Biden administration says it plans to increase the number of counties eligible for insurance for double cropping. Double cropping is when farmers grow two different crops a year on the same field. 

Under Biden's plan, the number of counties eligible for two-season crop insurance would increase by 681, for a total of 1,935. 

The UN has warned that up to 1.7bn people are "highly exposed" to the domino effect of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine on the global food, energy, and financial systems.  The agency says conflict could increase hunger in countries where people are already suffering from malnutrition.

Even countries where food is less scarce are being hit by rising prices. U.S. grocery prices rose 1% in April, compared with a 10.8% increase over the past 12 months, the Labor Department said recently.

According to the White House, global food prices have risen nearly 13 percent since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

Besides, affected by the ever-changing international situation, the supply and prices of international bulk natural graphite are still very uncertain.

Natural graphite is mainly used in refractory materials, batteries, steelmaking, expanded graphite, brake pads, casting surfaces, and lubricants.
 
Refractory 
The use of graphite as a refractory (heat-resistant) material began before 1900 for holding molten metal graphite crucible; This is a small fraction of what refractories are made today.  In the mid-1980s, carbon-magnesium bricks became important, followed later by alumina-graphite shapes. As of 2017, the order of importance is alumina-graphite profiles, carbon-magnesite bricks, Monolithics (a mixture of spray-patching and pounding), and then crucible. 
The crucible began to use very large sheets of graphite, whereas carbon-magnesia bricks did not require such large sheets of graphite; For these and other purposes, sheet sizes are now required with greater flexibility, and amorphous graphite is no longer limited to low-end refractories. Alumina-graphite profiles are used as continuous castings, such as nozzles and grooves, to transport molten steel from ladles to molds, and carbon-magnesium bricks are lined up in converter and electric-arc furnace to withstand extreme temperatures. Graphite blocks are also used as components in blast furnace linings where the high thermal conductivity of graphite is essential to ensure adequate cooling of the furnace bottom and chamber. High purity monolithic tiles are usually used as continuous furnace linings rather than carbon magnesia bricks. 
 
Battery 
The use of graphite in batteries has increased since the 1970s. Natural and synthetic graphite is used as an anode material for constructing electrodes in major battery technologies.
The demand for batteries, mainly nickel-metal hydride, and lithium-ion batteries, led to an increase in demand for graphite in the late 1980s and early 1990s - an increase driven by portable electronic devices, such as portable CD players and power tools. Laptops, phones, tablets, and smartphones have increased the need for batteries. Electric vehicle batteries are expected to increase graphite demand. The lithium-ion battery in the all-electric Nissan Leaf, for example, contains nearly 40 kilograms of graphite. 
Radioactive graphite from old nuclear reactors is being studied as fuel. Nuclear diamond batteries have the potential to provide long-term energy for electronics and the Internet of things.
 
Steelmaking 
Natural graphite in steelmaking is mainly used to improve the carbon content in molten steel. It can also be used to lubricate molds used to extrude hot steel. Carbon additives face competitive prices from alternatives such as synthetic graphite powder, petroleum coke, and other forms of carbon. Carburizing agent is added to raise the carbon content of the steel to a specified level.
 
Brake pads
Natural amorphous and fine-scale graphite is used in brake linings or shoes for heavier (non-automotive) vehicles and has become important as a replacement for asbestos is needed. This use has been important for a long time, but non-asbestos organic (NAO) ingredients are beginning to reduce graphite's market share. 
 
Casting coat and lubricant 
The mold cleaning liquid for casting is a water-based amorphous or fine-scale graphite coating. Paint the inside of the mold with it and let it dry, leaving a fine coating of graphite that eases the separation of the casting as the hot metal cools. Graphite lubricants are special products used at very high or very low temperatures, used as lubricants for forging dies, anti-stuck agents, gear lubricants for mining machinery, and lubricating locks. There is a great need for low grain graphite and even better non-grain graphite (ultra-high purity).  It can be used as a dry powder in water or oil, or as colloidal graphite (a permanent suspension in liquid).
 
Pencil 
Since the 16th century, all pencils have been made from graphite naturally found in Britain, but the most common modern lead is a mixture of powdered graphite and clay. 
 
Other uses 
Natural graphite has found use in zinc-carbon batteries, motor brushes, and a variety of specialized applications. Graphite of different hardness or softness produces different qualities and tones when used as an artistic medium. Railroads often mix graphite powder with waste oil or flaxseed oil to form a heat-resistant coating for exposed parts of steam locomotive boilers, such as the lower part of a smoke box or firebox. 
 
Expanded graphite 
Expanded graphite is made by dipping natural flake graphite into a bath of chromic acid, followed by concentrated sulfuric acid, which forces the lattice planes apart and causes the graphite to expand. Expanded graphite can be used in the manufacture of graphite foil or directly used as the "hot top" compounds, to isolate in the molten metal ladle or hot ingot and reduce heat loss, or used as a fire door installed in or around the fire damper in the sheet metal plate plastic pipes around the lantern ring (in the fire, the graphite expansion and carbonized in the infiltration and spread of resistance to fire), or high-performance gasket materials used in the manufacture of high-temperature use. After making graphite foil, the foil is machined and assembled into bipolar fuel cells. Aluminum foil is made into radiators for laptops, keeping them cool while reducing weight, and is made into foil laminates that can be used as valve fillers or made into gaskets. Old-fashioned fillers are now a minor member of the group: fine scales of graphite in oil or grease, used for applications requiring heat resistance.
 
Natural graphite Price
The price is influenced by many factors including the supply and demand in the market, industry trends, economic activity, market sentiment, and unexpected events.
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Twitter recently announced that it had reached an agreement with Musk to take full ownership of the company for $54.20 per share, or about $44 billion in cash.  After the deal, Twitter will become a privately held company. The deal, which has been unanimously approved by Twitter's board but still requires shareholder and regulatory approvals, is expected to close in 2022.  

After Tesla CEO Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter was finalized, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey sent out a series of six tweets expressing his expectations for Musk.  

Dorsey called Twitter his biggest regret, saying, “The idea and service is all that matters to me, and I will do whatever it takes to protect both. Twitter as a company has always been my sole issue and my biggest regret. It has been owned by Wall Street and the ad model. Taking it back from Wall Street is the correct first step.  

"In principle, I don't believe anyone should own or run Twitter," Dorsey goes on. He thinks the service is a public good.

He called Musk a "singular solution" to Twitter's problems, "Elon's goal of creating a platform that is" Maximally trusted and inclusive "is the right one." He wrote, "Thank you both for getting the company out of an impossible situation. This is the right path...  I believe it with all my heart."

Besides, because of the ever-changing international situation, the supply and prices of international bulk natural graphite are still very uncertain.

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