By Michael Montgomery—Exclusive to Manganese Investing News
A new and exciting market is opening for manganese that could provide the metal with explosive growth potential, and diversification away from it ties to the steel industry. This market is essential to the future, from high tech consumer goods, to the automotive industry, and energy production. The future for manganese lies in battery technology. With the addition of manganese to lithium-ion batteries, energy density and recharge rates are improved dramatically. These factors can lower the cost of production making the economic viability of electric cars and a host of other technologies, a reality. Even more incredible is a breakthrough from researchers at Stanford that contains the ability to produce electrical power from fresh and salt water, which could provide clean, cheap energy for the world.
There is a factor that is important to consider before going forward; the difference between manganese and electrolytic manganese metal (EMM). China currently controls 97 percent of EMM production, they charge a 20 percent export tariff, and the US imposes a 14 import tariff, adding the shipping costs, makes North American producers of products using EMM at a serious disadvantage. The price for EMM from China is about $1.65 per pound, after tariffs, the price for North American consumers is roughly the price is $2.225 per pound. Currently, there are no producers of manganese in North America. However, two companies are working on their deposits, the first being American Manganese (TSXV:AMY)(PINK:AMYZF) which could be the lowest cost electrolytic manganese producer in the world at $0.44/lb compared with$0.98/lb in China. The second company is Wildcat Silver (TSXV:WS) that is working on its Hardshell property in Arizona.
The use of manganese in battery technology is an exciting new market for the metal. Currently, the new Chevy Volt uses a version of a lithium-ion manganese rich battery, and with emerging technology the benefits of manganese are only going to continue to grow. Researchers at the University of Illinois are developing batteries using manganese that can recharge in minutes, not hours.
“For the lithium-ion version, it is manganese dioxide spiked with lithium ions… The consequence, according to Dr. Braun, is a charging rate ten to 100 times higher than that of a normal, commercial battery (in one instance, the researchers created a lithium-ion battery that could be 90% recharged in two minutes),” according to an article from The Economist.
This new technology will certainly cost more in the short term due to development costs, however, by replacing cobalt with manganese, the cost of the materials is far cheaper. Further increases in efficiency are also being developed, by applying “similar techniques were applied to the anode—a task that Dr. Braun is now working on.”
This same technology could be used in all mobile electronics that currently use traditional lithium-ion batteries, think of the potential with every cell phone, laptop, tablet, and the myriad of other uses. The market for mobile electronics and energy storage is truly massive.
Manganese is also being used in a new technology that seems very promising for green electrical generation from researchers at Stanford. The ‘battery’ system would generate electricity by harnessing the power of ocean salt water and freshwater. Put simply the battery is filled with freshwater, charged with a small amount of electricity, then the fresh water is replaced with salt water that contains 60 to 100 times the amount of ions, allowing the battery to generate electricity.
“They achieved 74 percent efficiency in converting the potential energy in the battery to electrical current, but (Yi) Cui thinks with simple modifications, the battery could be 85 percent efficient. To enhance efficiency, the positive electrode of the battery is made from nanorods of manganese dioxide. That increases the surface area available for interaction with the sodium ions by roughly 100 times compared with other materials,” reported Louis Bergeron, for Stanford News.
The production of electricity from this method is sustainable in every sense of the word. The water is not tainted, and manganese dioxide was chosen by Yi Cui, “for the positive electrode in part because it is environmentally benign.” According to their statistics, at current efficiency rates, a plant using 50 cubic meters of water per second could produce 100 Megawatts, or power for 100,000 households. They are even look into using grey water or sewage in the system, to generate electricity from essentially a useless material.
Manganese is being used for future battery technology, once the engineering hurdles are overcome, the metal may revolutionize mobile electronics, the automotive industry, and maybe just generate clean electricity. The demand for manganese will surely explode.