Kingston, Ontario’s Grafoid Inc. has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the establishment of a strategic joint venture partnership with China’s largest producer and exporter of tungsten products, Xiamen Tungsten Co. Ltd., which will see Xiamen take up to a 20% equity stake in privately held Grafoid, pending the completion of due diligence which is set to conclude on May 22, 2016.
Xiamen’s equity position in Grafoid was negotiated through its parent company, Ottawa’s Focus Graphite Inc. (TSX VENTURE:FMS) (OTCQX:FCSMF) (FRANKFURT:FKC), through the purchase of up to 7 million Grafoid common shares currently held by Focus Graphite.
“In addition to providing Grafoid with a strategic partner, Grafoid’s MOU with Xiamen, has benefits for Focus Graphite. When finalized, it will provide additional funding to allow us to advance our overall mine and transformation plant financing, and potentially open the China market to Focus Graphite for additional offtake partners and the sale of value added graphite products,” said Focus Graphite CEO and Director Gary Economo.
“Specifically, this injection of funding could enable Focus Graphite to advance our Lac Knife detailed engineering and finalize the environmental permitting process” said Economo. “And, it enables us to move to the next stage in assembling our mine CAPEX financing.”
Last September, Grafoid and Focus Graphite finalized two offtake agreements for obtaining graphite concentrate from a mining project at Lac Knife in Quebec for the next 10 years, one of the priorities of the Quebec government’s Plan Nord initiative.
Focus Graphite, with 7.9 million shares, is currently Grafoid’s largest stakeholder.
The MOU will also see the establishment of Xiamen’s business office at the Grafoid Global Technology Center in Kingston, providing Xiamen with a North American base for future business expansion, as well as the establishment of a Grafoid business office in China.
Grafoid’s path to commercialization lies in its patented product, a high-quality graphene trading under the name Mesograf.
Other terms of the MOU include the desire of Xiamen to introduce a clean energy technology platform and associated technologies to the Chinese market, and the opportunity for Grafoid to bring its suite of Mesograf and Amphioxide graphene based products to China.
With the Lac Knife project moving forward, Grafoid is well positioned to supply global markets with with high purity, value-added, cost-competitive graphite products while supporting the next generation battery development platform of Grafoid, Focus Graphite, Stria Lithium Inc., and Braille Battery Inc.
With annual revenue surpassing 10.143B CNY ($1.55B US), Xiamen, a publicly traded company listed on the Shanghai Exchange (SHA:600549), is a major player in that country’s smelting, processing and exporting of tungsten and other non-ferrous metal products, the operation of rare earth business interests, and the supply of battery materials.
Grafoid currently has 17 joint partnership ventures with industrial and academic partners, including Japan’s Mitsui & Co., Hydro Quebec, Rutgers University, the University of Waterloo, and Phos Solar Systems in Greece.
Last February, Grafoid received an $8.1 million investment from the SD Tech Fund of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to help automate the production of Mesograf and end-product development.
Earlier this month, Professor Aiping Yu of the University of Waterloo’s Chemical Engineering department received a $450,000 Strategic Partnership Grant through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to help Grafoid develop an advanced graphene fiber based wearable supercapacitor
Some drug regimens, such as those designed to eliminate tumors, are notorious for nasty side effects. Unwanted symptoms are often the result of medicine going where it’s not needed and harming healthy cells. To minimize this risk, researchers in Quebec have developed nanoparticles that only release a drug when exposed to near-infrared light, which doctors could beam onto a specific site. Their report appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
For years, scientists have been striving to develop localized treatments to reduce side effects of therapeutic drugs. They have designed drug-delivery systems that respond to light, temperature, ultrasound and pH changes. One promising approach involved drug-carrying materials that are sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light. Shining a beam in this part of the light spectrum causes the materials to release their therapeutic cargo at a designated location. But UV light has major limitations. It can’t penetrate body tissues, and it is carcinogenic. Near-infrared (NIR) light can go through 1 to 2 centimeters of tissue and would be a safer alternative, but photosensitive drug-carriers don’t react to it. McGill University engineering professor Marta Cerruti and colleagues sought a way to bring the two kinds of light together in one possible solution.
The researchers started with nanoparticles that convert NIR light into UV light and coated them in a UV-sensitive hydrogel shell infused with a fluorescent protein, a stand-in for drug molecules. When exposed to NIR light, the nanoparticles instantaneously converted it to UV, which induced the shell to release the protein payload. The researchers note that their on-demand delivery system could not only supply drug molecules but also agents for imaging and diagnostics.
- Ghulam Jalani, Rafik Naccache, Derek H. Rosenzweig, Lisbet Haglund, Fiorenzo Vetrone, Marta Cerruti.Photocleavable Hydrogel-Coated Upconverting Nanoparticles: A Multifunctional Theranostic Platform for NIR Imaging and On-Demand Macromolecular Delivery. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2016; DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b12357
The term ‘nanotechnology’ entered into the public vernacular quite suddenly around the turn of the century, right around the same time that, when announcing the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 2001, President Bill Clinton declared that it would one day build materials stronger than steel, detect cancer at its inception, and store the vast records of the Library of Congress in a device the size of a sugar cube. The world of science fiction took matters even further. In his 2002 book Prey, Michael Creighton wrote of a cloud of self-replicating nanorobots that terrorize the good people of Nevada when a science experiment goes terribly wrong.
Back then the hype was palpable. Federal money was funneled to promising nanotech projects as not to fall behind in the race to master this new frontier of science. And industry analysts began to shoot for the moon in their projections. The National Science Foundation famously predicted that the nanotechnology industry would be worth $1 trillion by the year 2015.
Well here we are in 2015 and the nanotechnology market was worth around $26 billion in last year, and there hasn’t even been one case of a murderous swarm of nanomachines terrorizing the American heartland.
Is this a failure of vision? No. If anything it’s only a failure of timing.
The nanotechnology industry is still well on its way to accomplishing the goals set out at the founding of the NNI, goals which at the time sounded utterly quixotic, and this fact is increasingly being reflected in year-on-year growth numbers. In other words, nanotechnology is still a game-changer in global innovation, it’s just taking a little longer than first expected.
The Promise of Nanotechnology
We know the hype, but what’s the reality of nanotechnology? Simply put, the field involves the manipulation of matter on an extremely small scale – that of less than 100 nanometers – in order to create new materials and devices. Just as nanotechnology itself is a broad interdisciplinary pursuit across the sciences, so too are the technology’s real-world applications, which span several industries: biomedical, electronics, energy, and environmental just to name a few. The largest sub-sector of nanotechnology is nanomaterials, which accounted for nearly 80% of the industry in 2013. These materials can be used for anything from water purification to self-cleaning walls to anti-microbial surfaces in a hot zone, and they are already being applied in a wide variety of industrial contexts.
The promise of nanotechnology is alive and well, and the possibilities remain endless. Science & innovation occupy a unique position in their potential to change the world for the better. When grappling with transnational risks to the environment and human life, national governments and international institutions can easily be derailed by internecine conflict. In the few cases where interests are aligned, bureaucratic inefficiency can further thwart a swift and effective response. Science transcends these challenges as nothing else can, and in this nanotechnology is the cutting edge. It’s the difference between having to organize, fund, and coordinate tens of thousands of volunteers across three states to clean up the Deepwater Horizon spill and dispersing the oil quickly and painlessly using nanomaterials, which would also be a far safer alternative than the chemical-based dispersants used in the Gulf of Mexico.
Nanotechnology also represents economic promise, something that a handful of far-sighted governments were quick to identify. Through 2012, the United States has invested $3.7 billion, China $1.3 billion, the EU $1.2 billion, and Japan $750 million into their respective domestic industries. All are hoping that these early investments will pay off by creating jobs and a solid R&D base in one of the last uncharted frontiers of the global innovation economy.
The Canadian Connection
Although the Canadian government is not among the world’s top spenders on nanotechnology research, the industry still represents a bright spot in the future of the Canadian economy. The public-private engine at the center of Canada’s nanotech industry, the National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT), was founded in 2001 with the stated goal of “increasing the competitiveness of Canadian companies; creating technology solutions to meet the needs of society; expanding training programs for researchers and entrepreneurs; and enhancing Canada’s stature in the world of nanotechnology.” This ambitious mandate that NINT set out for itself was to be accomplished over the course of two broad stages: first a ‘seeding’ phase of attracting promising personnel and coordinating basic research, and the then a ‘harvesting’ phase of putting the resulting nanotechnologies to the service of Canadian industry.
Recent developments in Canadian nanotechnology show that we have already entered that second stage where the concept of nanotechnology transitions from hopeful hypothetical to real-world economic driver.
This article was published by Geopolitical Monitor.com
21 Oct 2015
The opportunity is electricity storage, which until now has been limited by technology to a relatively modest scale. That’s about to change. And it means that Canada – and specifically Ontario – can become an ideal seedbed for storage technology, because there are ready markets for both large- and small-scale storage systems.
First, the large scale. Ontario has a fleet of nuclear generators that operate around the clock, and come close to filling the demand for power at off-peak hours. In addition, Ontario has developed a large renewable energy sector of wind and solar generation (in addition to its traditional hydro stations.) Problems sometimes arise when the natural weather cycles that drive wind and solar production are out of synch with the market cycle. On a sunny, breezy Saturday afternoon in May, with the nuclear plants running flat out, the hydro stations churning out power with the spring runoff and solar and wind systems near peak production, Ontario may have more electricity than it needs.
Our electricity system operators have a solution, of course: Sell the excess electricity to our neighbours. But since our neighbours are often in the same boat, Ontario must cut the price close to zero – or in extreme situations, even pay neighbouring states or provinces to absorb our overproduction.
Wouldn’t it make far more sense to store that excess energy, knowing that it will be needed in a matter of days, or even hours? What’s been lacking is the technology to do the job.
That’s changing however, as Ontario’s current program to procure 50 megawatts of storage capacity demonstrates. Companies with a variety of approaches are working hard to bring their solutions to market – many of them clustered at the MaRS centre in Toronto. Some, such as Hydrogenics Corp., convert electricity into hydrogen, which can be used to supplement natural gas.
My own company, NRStor, has partnered with Temporal Power and is operating a flywheel storage system in Minto, Ont., that helps the market operator to maintain consistent voltage on the grid.
Of course, businesses around the globe are looking at the same opportunities as we are, and here lies the opportunity for Canada to rebrand its energy economy.
A recent report by Deutsche Bank calls battery storage the “holy grail of solar penetration,” and believes that with the current rate of progress in improving efficiency, mass adoption of lithium ion batteries at a commercial/utility scale could occur before 2020.
Analysis by Prof. Andrew Ford of Washington State University calculates that a 1,000-megawatt air storage system from U.S.-based General Compression Inc. could deliver $6- to $8-billion of value to Ontario – in the form of lower energy costs to local utilities – over a 20-year period. All this is of interest to large-scale electricity system operators, big utilities and their customers.
But there is another reason for us to pay attention to energy storage – a reason grounded on a much more human scale. There are still large rural areas around the globe where there is no reliable electrical grid – including Northern Canada.
There is great potential for these communities, including remote First Nations communities, to improve their standard of living by installing microscale renewable generation in combination with storage, and relying less on carbon-spewing diesel generators, powered by fuel that must be transported long distances at great expense.
Storage is the key to making renewable energy a fully competitive component of any electrical grid. It can make our grid cleaner and more efficient, for the benefit of all consumers – large and small, urban and rural. We have the chance, in Canada, to become world leaders in developing this technology. Let’s seize it.
Annette Verschuren is the chairwoman and CEO of NRStor and on the board of MaRS Discovery District.
Annette Verschuren is speaking at the Cleantech Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX Cleantech) conference in Toronto on Oct. 15.
13 Oct 2015
The Canadian government is failing when it comes to reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, and isn’t on track to meet reduction goals set for 2020 and 2050, according to professor and environmental analyst Mark Jaccard, of Simon Fraser Univ.
“I find that in the nine years since its promise to reduce Canadian emissions 20% by 2020 and 65% by 2050, the Canadian government has implemented virtually no policies that would materially reduce emissions,” he writes in his climate policy report card. “The 2020 target is now unachievable without great harm to the Canadian economy.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in 2009, changed the 2020 target from 20% to 17% of 2005’s emissions, which was 749 Mt. In 2014, the country produced 726 Mt of carbon dioxide.
Emissions have been steadily increasing since 1990, fluctuated between 2005 and 2008 and notably declined in 2009, according to the Canadian government. Since then, emissions have been slightly rising.
Jaccard credits the global recession of 2008 and 2009 with the cause of temporary reductions in Canada’s emissions. Additionally, Ontario reduced its emissions by 80% after closing or converting its coal-fired power plants over a 10-year period, between 2004 and 2014. According to Jaccard, this was possible due to coal providing only 25% of Ontario’s electricity.
Speaking with The Globe and Mail, a spokesperson for Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Canada has a proven track record in reducing greenhouse emissions, including a major investment in clean energy in Ottawa.
“The Harper government did pass regulations to phase out traditional coal-fired power, but those won’t have an impact for the next 10 to 15 years,” the media outlet reports. “As well, Ottawa has matched U.S. moves to impose increasingly tough fuel efficiency standards on vehicle, but, again, those regulations will yield little result before 2020.”
Exploring reasons behind inactivity regarding regulations, Harper suggests the dynamic between immediate costs and long-term benefits may deter politicians from imposing regulations. Further, some may view the issue as to much for a single country to handle, and will stave off action until a near-universal global effort occurs.
For Canada, “a failing grade is obviously the result,” Jaccard writes.
Editor’s Note: This is the 10th installment of an occasional series on water scarcity issues around the world that Stratfor will be building upon periodically.
Despite being “water rich,” Canada will experience increasing regional water stress as demographics and climate variability threaten the natural resources in the country’s prairie. Suggestions about the possibility of Canada exporting water will emerge sporadically, as they have in the past. But such plans are highly unlikely to come to fruition, both because public opinion opposes the commoditization of water and because the exporting water would not be profitable. While Canada will continue to protect its freshwater resources, it will not turn them into a traded commodity.
Canada’s wealth of resources and comparatively small population allow the government to capitalize on the export of a number of goods, including oil, natural gas, fertilizer and wheat. But although Canada holds roughly 7 percent of the world’s renewable freshwater resources and less than 1 percent of the total global population, water is not poised to become another exported commodity — even as other areas of the world continue coping with water stress and water scarcity.
Canadian citizens generally view access to water as a basic human right and oppose attempts to sell it for profit. In addition, logistical difficulties and economic infeasibility — not only in Canada, but globally — ensure that bulk transfers of water across long distances will remain rare.
Canada’s Deceptive Abundance
The amount of renewable fresh water available to each Canadian citizen is more than 80,000 cubic meters per year. Even other countries that are not typically considered water stressed have far less water available per citizen. For example, the United Kingdom’s annual per capita water availability is just over 2,300 cubic meters per year, and the United States has just over 9,500 cubic meters per person.
However, Canada’s surfeit of water is greater on paper than it is in reality. The country’s water prices are among the lowest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, encouraging overuse of the resources. Moreover, as in the United States, Canada’s water is not equally distributed. The majority of Canada’s population lives in the southern part of the country, but 60 percent of the country’s renewable water drains to the north, so access to water resources is limited. In fact, some areas of Canada are already experiencing some degree of water stress.
The prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are typically more arid than other parts of the country. An expansion of agricultural and industrial activity in the region, along with population increases in recent decades, has led to greater water stress in parts of these provinces, and the pressure is expected to increase in coming decades. Agricultural and extractive industrial activity can be expected to continue in the region even as existing resources dwindle. Glaciers that feed the headwaters of many of the major rivers in the region have shrunk by roughly 25 percent in the past 100 years. Increasing temperatures and more frequent droughts are predicted, likely further increasing the strain on the water supply.
10 Jun 2015
For many, nuclear fusion is the Holy Grail of energy, offering the possibility of limitless clean energy through harnessing the very same chemical reaction that keeps our Sun burning.
While the potential of fusion is huge, it is a process that requires vast resources and effort, with the International Energy Agency stating that, “extreme temperatures and pressure are needed to initiate and sustain the fusion reaction, making it challenging.”
Fusion is different from the fission power that is used in our nuclear power stations in that energy is generated when atoms are brought together rather than blown apart, which causes radiation.
British Columbia-based General Fusion are hoping that the technology and methods they are developing will herald a new era in nuclear fusion. They have developed what they describe as a “Magnetized Target Fusion system.”
According to the company’s website, the system makes use of a sphere which is filled with molten lead-lithium. This is pumped to create a vortex, into which ‘magnetically confined plasma’ — an electrically charged gas — is injected. Pistons surrounding the sphere are used to drive a wave of pressure into its center, “compressing the plasma to fusion conditions.”
“Fusion is done… [in] two ways,” Michel Laberge, founder and chief scientist of General Fusion, told CNBC’s Sustainable Energy. “Usually… you make a magnetic field and that hold[s] the plasma – which is the hot gas – together, or you have no magnetic field and you crush it very fast with lasers.”
“What we want to do is something in between: we want to make a plasma, a hot gas, with the magnetic field, and then crush the thing with the magnetic field, and because [with] the magnetic field the heat will not escape so fast… that will work a lot better,” Laberge added.
Currently, General Fusion is developing what they describe as ‘full scale subsystems’ that will demonstrate that they can meet performance targets. In the future, they are hoping to build a full scale prototype which they say will be, “designed for single pulse testing, demonstrating full net energy gain on each pulse, a world first.”
“Humanity… needs a source of energy for the future, and we cannot keep on burning fossil fuels,” Laberge said. “Fusion will be powering humanity in the future,” he added.
04 May 2015
www2.deloitte.com•Rapid advances in technology are about to disrupt Canada’s business landscape. Robots, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, crowds, clouds and the Internet of Things will profoundly change our … (“Oh Canada ~ Eh!?”)
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