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Graphite Market Key Terms

Purified Spherical Graphite

    • Purified spherical graphite is a high-purity form of graphite used as the anode material in lithium-ion batteries.
    • It is made from natural or synthetic graphite, which is purified and shaped into spheres through a process of micronization, rounding, and surface coating.
    • The spherical shape allows for better packing density and improved performance in batteries.

Anode Active Materials

  • Anode active materials (AAMs) are the materials used in batteries that function as the anode and store lithium ions during charging.
  • The anode active material, typically made of graphite, allows for the transfer of lithium ions and is responsible for the battery's capacity, energy density, and cycle life.
  • Silicon is the primary competitor to graphite for use as the anode material in lithium-ion batteries.

Natural Graphite

  • Natural graphite is a type of graphite that occurs naturally in the earth's crust.
  • It is formed through the metamorphism of organic carbon, typically from sedimentary rocks.
  • There are 3 types of natural graphite:
    • Flake graphite (most common)
    • Vein graphite (rarest)
    • Amorphous graphite

Flake Graphite

  • Flake graphite is the most common type of natural graphite.
  • It's high natural crystallinity allows it to intercalate lithium ions efficiently, making it an important component in the anode of many lithium-ion batteries, including those used in EVs.
  • Flake graphite is also highly conductive and relatively low-cost, making it a popular choice for use in large-scale battery production.

Vein Graphite

  • Vein graphite is a rarer and more expensive type of graphite that is highly valued for its high purity and crystallinity.
  • It has a unique morphology that allows it to be easily shaped into a spherical form, which can improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries.
  • However, vein graphite is not as readily available as flake graphite, which makes it more expensive and less widely used.

Synthetic Graphite

  • Synthetic graphite is a man-made material produced by the high-temperature treatment of a carbon-based precursor, typically petroleum coke or coal tar pitch.
  • This process converts the precursor material into a highly ordered, crystalline form of graphite with a range of unique properties.
  • Synthetic graphite is often preferred over natural graphite for certain applications, such as in high-performance electrodes and industrial processes, due to its purity, consistency, and ability to be customized for specific uses.
  • It is also used in lithium-ion batteries, particularly in the form of spherical graphite.

Graphite Electrodes

  • Graphite electrodes are a type of electrode used in high-temperature industrial processes, particularly in electric arc furnaces used by the steel-making industry.
  • They are made from high-purity graphite and are used to conduct electrical current through the materials being melted.
  • Graphite electrodes are able to withstand the high temperatures and corrosive environments of these processes, making them an essential component in modern steel-making techniques.

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Graphite Investing FAQ

Why is graphite used in EV batteries?
  • The unique properties of graphite, including its high natural crystallinity, make it an ideal material for use in the anode of lithium-ion batteries.
  • Specifically, graphite can intercalate lithium ions efficiently, allowing for effective charging and discharging cycles, and is highly conductive, facilitating the flow of electricity within the battery.
  • Graphite is also relatively low-cost and abundant, making it a popular choice for use in large-scale battery production
Which country mines the most graphite?
  • China is the leading producer of mined natural graphite, with an estimated 64% of global mine production in 2022.
  • Following China are Mozambique (13%), Madagascar (8.4%) and Brazil (6.62%).

Source: U.S. Geological Survey 2023 Mineral Commodity Summaries.

What is the largest graphite mine in the world?
  • The Balama Graphite Mine in Mozambique is the world’s largest Graphite mine.
  • The mine, 100% owned by Syrah Resources, has an annual graphite production capacity of 350ktpa, 16.9 million tonnes of reserves and a 50 year mine life.
  • The mine produces fixed carbon graphite concentrate.
What could replace graphite in EV batteries?
  • Graphite is expected to remain the primary anode material for lithium-ion batteries for the foreseeable future.
  • The primary competitor is silicon, which has a higher theoretical capacity than graphite, but also faces technical challenges that have not yet been overcome in commercial operations, such as low cycle life and swelling during cycling.

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