An increasingly high-tech world is on the horizon, but technological revolution can’t take place without the right materials, especially graphite and platinum group metals. This is where mining, one of the oldest industries in human history, comes in. In this interview with The Metals Report, Byron King, editor of the Energy & Scarcity Investor and Outstanding Investments newsletters, profiles companies poised to deliver graphite and platinum group metals to tech companies working to change the way we communicate, travel and harness energy.
The Metals Report: Byron, you recently visited Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California. What did you see there that could affect our lives in the next decade?
Byron King: The focus of my visit was a massive physics experimental project known as the National Ignition Facility, or NIF. It uses laser beams to simulate the effects of almost incomprehensibly powerful phenomena like the inside of a star or the inside of a nuclear explosion.
NIF is a gigantic facility—almost as big as an aircraft carrier. It’s a huge building filled with laser-beam systems that focus intense energy on tiny spots inside a 30-foot diameter target chamber. Essentially, the NIF lasers create hydrogen fusion, a sort of tiny hydrogen bomb. Scientists can use it to simulate fundamental physics issues down to the star-like levels of pressure and temperature on protons, neutrons and electrons in the nucleus of an atom. One of the key government purposes, if you will, is to calibrate instrumentation that tests nuclear weapons without actually setting them off. Projects at NIF push the envelope of our understanding of atomic physics. This has the potential to change our lives in ways that we can’t even begin to understand. It’s wide open.
Sitting here talking with you during the current government shutdown, it’s easy to criticize government for being too big, too expensive, etc. But this kind of big science—like we see at NIF—can only be done through a dedicated, long-term, national government effort. In terms of pushing the fundamentals frontiers of human knowledge, I think it’s worth the money we put into it.
TMR: It sounds like NIF could impact technology and energy in many ways. You call graphite the next industrial revolution. Why graphite, and why now?
BK: For most of human history, people have only used a very few materials: cellulose in the form of wood, cotton or other fibers, and metals like bronze, copper, lead and steel. Aluminum only came into widespread use in the early 20th century.
Since the end of World War II and the space race of the 1960s, we are using a larger variety of materials in our daily lives. Today, cell phones, TVs, even light bulbs are filled with all sorts of exotic materials.
I think the next big leap for fundamental material science will be in the field of carbon. This takes us immediately to graphite and what are called allotropes of carbon, such as graphite nanotubes and graphene.
One of the primary carbon raw materials will be a naturally occurring form called graphite. Humankind already uses lots of graphite. Consider what’s called amorphous carbon, which you’ll find in all manner of things—brake pads and pencils, for example. Flake graphite is a higher-end form of carbon; it comes in different grades. Small-flake graphite is only somewhat better than the amorphous stuff, with many of the same applications like brake pads and such. Large-flake graphite is critical to many modern applications. Examples include advanced storage batteries and the heat-conducting foil that dissipates the heat from your smartphone so you can hold it in your hand without getting burned.
We’re barely into the early innings of the materials revolution using advanced forms of graphite.(...)Click here to continue reading the original ETFDailyNews.com article: Wave Of The Future Investment From The Ground UpYou are viewing an abbreviated republication of ETF Daily News content. You can find full ETF Daily News articles on (www.etfdailynews.com)
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