Graphene may still be a new material, but it’s already taken the mining world by storm, thanks to innovative players like newGen Group.
newGen has recently delivered trial results showing graphene-enhanced wear liners have lifetimes that are six times longer than their standard counterparts.
Wear liners are an essential component of steel fabricated mining equipment, providing a resilient and sacrificial layer to protect the steel from abrasion wear during ore handling operations.
This protective layer invariably deteriorates over time and with repeated use, leading them to be replaced periodically.
As in any maintenance work on a mine site, finding ways to increase the time between replacements maximises throughput at the mine, reduces downtime and saves money.
It was this desire to find an effective way of reducing the need for replacement liners that inspired the team at newGen to seek out graphene as a solution, leading to the development and manufacture of ArmourGRAPH® liner materials.
To prove the results in the field, graphene-enhanced reclaimer bucket wear liners were prepared using a low addition rate of First Graphene Ltd.’s PureGRAPH® in hot cast polyurethane, then installed at a major iron ore producer’s load-out facility in WA’s Pilbara region in mid-2019.
Standard bucket wear liners were installed alongside the ArmourGRAPH® liners throughout the 62-week trial, before being returned to newGen early this year for assessment.
The ArmourGRAPH® liners outperformed standard liners in all key assessment areas, which took into account that the primary mechanism of failure is abrasion loss.
Abrasion analysis was performed on the rear sliding face of the bucket liner as this surface is well fitted to the steel bucket and provides the most representative analysis of liner wear life.
The average abrasion loss for an ArmourGRAPH® liner was 1.16mm, which was about six times better than the standard liners at 7.17 average loss.
ArmourGRAPH® only recorded a 2.2mm maximum abrasion loss compared to the standard liners 8.9mm loss.
When comparing the average wear rate on the rear sliding face in terms of millimetres per week, the ArmourGRAPH® also performed more than six times better than the standard liners.
While standard liners were found to have an average wear rate of 0.12mm per week, ArmourGRAPH® recorded a tiny 0.019mm.
ArmourGRAPH®’s maximum wear rate was just 0.035 compared to the standard liners’ 0.14mm.
According to newGen managing director Ben Walker, the results of the trial exceeded even his high expectations.
“The results of this extended trial prove that our ArmourGRAPH® liners can deliver vast improvements for operators,” he said.
“We’re so confident about ArmourGRAPH® and excited about what it can do that we’re actually disrupting our own market with them, but it’s important for us because we want to continue being an innovative force within our industry.
“We know that reducing downtime is a major area of focus in mining and these results show that can be achieved by adding small amounts of PureGRAPH® to polymer formulations and extending the life of wear liners.
“It can be disillusioning at times when you see various people make claims about what their product can do without any evidence to support it, but I think these results speak for themselves.” The results have been independently confirmed by the National Association of Testing Authorities Australia (NATA).
Ben said the team at newGen were now anticipating strong demand for a broad range of graphene-enhanced consumable products across the mining and mineral processing sectors, however, their wear liners had already been sought out by the major iron ore players and by nickel miners.
newGen is the first to apply graphene within its industry globally and although it is always a gamble to be a new technology’s first adopter, for Ben, the decision was easy.
“Graphene is the thinnest, strongest, most transparent, conductive material that has been isolated by man,” he said.
“The atoms in graphene are very tightly bonded, so when you talk about atomic layers and compare it to steel at that same atomic measurement, graphene is 200 times stronger than steel.
“That doesn’t mean that when we put graphene into something it’s going to make that 200 times stronger because we’re having to do it at low concentrations, but the process is making our products significantly stronger and dramatically increasing the life of the product.”
Graphene is exfoliated from graphite and is an allotrope of carbon consisting of a single layer of atoms in a two-dimensional honeycomb lattice.
Although first theorised in 1947, graphene was not properly isolated and characterised until 2004, when two researchers at the University of Manchester successfully pulled graphene layers from graphite with household adhesive tape in a process called micromechanical cleavage or more simply, the Scotch tape technique.
The researchers then transferred the graphene flakes into thin silicon dioxide layers on a silicon plate, which electrically isolated the graphene and weakly interacting with it, providing nearly chargeneutral graphene layers.
This surprisingly simple preparation method sparked global interest in graphene, with research into the material expanding into various different subfields.
Despite being so new, graphene is now able to be produced with the quality controls, consistency, volume availability and competitive price point necessary for commercialisation.
As well as sparking a 21st century graphene gold rush, the process and work that went into it earned the two researchers the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.
Ben said the team at newGen began to think about using graphene in its products not long after.
“We did go looking for graphene because we’re always looking for new innovative ways to integrate new technologies into our products and our industry,” he said.
“We read up about it, went looking for it and as fortune would have it a company called First Graphene popped up here in WA.
“I camped out there every week when they were building the facility and was able to meet with the CEO.”
First Graphene and newGen signed a memorandum of understanding in 2018 and went straight into development.
Based in the same suburb as newGen, First Graphene is now the world’s leading graphene supplier with a fully integrated graphite supply chain.
First Graphene owns its own graphite mining facilities in Sri Lanka, where graphite ore with a purity of more than 90% is extracted before being transported to the advanced manufacturing centre in WA.
The ore is then converted to graphene using a proprietary single-step, high-yield electrochemical exfoliation process.
This allows First Graphene to manufacture large volumes of extremely high purity graphene, under controlled conditions, which are constantly monitored and quality approved before being sent to newGen for inclusion in a range of products.
Ben said the strong partnership newGen shared with First Graphene had enabled them to develop and deliver cutting edge products that could drive efficiencies across mine sites and cut costs without cutting quality.
“We’re a good few years into the process now and we’ve done a lot of sampling, testing and field trials so we now have a heap of results and are rolling the product out,” Ben said.
“We’re extremely proud to be the first in our industry globally to develop and apply this technology, right here in WA.
“It has the serious potential to reduce ongoing operational and maintenance costs, mitigate the risk of down time, and solve a lot of problems that just couldn’t be solved previously.” newGen has now applied the technology to its range of polyurethanes, rubber compounds and high-performance epoxies, bringing its range of benefits including abrasion and tear resistance to pipe spooling, screen media, pulley lagging, chute liners and bucket liners.
The product range also benefits from lowered co-efficient of friction and improved fire resistant characteristics.
Additionally, graphene presents a barrier to hydrolysis and chemical conditions.
Ben said the team at newGen expect to see ArmourGRAPH® materials and physical properties become the new standard for wear protection and pipe lining solutions.
He said the team was also eager to collaborate with its customers to calculate a total cost of ownership (TCO) report.
“We’ll provide a graphene enhanced lining material formulated to optimise service life performance in the specific process conditions provided,” he said.
“Testing will be performed by a third party in simulated operating conditions to compare current specified lining materials with our ArmourGRAPH® lining material.
“These results will be factored into the total cost benefit analysis and final TCO report.” Generally, ArmourGRAPH® wear liners demonstrate typical tensile strength improvements of about 50 per cent and abrasion resistance improvements of about 100 – 500 per cent for all wear liner applications; from bucket wheel reclaimer liners to mineral processing components and chute applications.
Based in WA, newGen has been providing its mining, bulk handling and mineral processing clients with a comprehensive range of wear protection products and onsite services for more than a decade.
Over this time, its promise of old-fashioned integrity coupled with its dedication to driving new technologies with innovative products and quality workmanship has helped the company to build a solid reputation as a reliable and trusted supplier.
The team at newGen differentiate themselves from the pack through their ability to offer their clients an extensive range of integrated services for turn-key supply, which drive efficiencies and improve delivery times.
As evidenced by its application of graphene, newGen is at the forefront of the development of next generation wear protection and lining systems through its active research and development work with advanced materials.
newGen are recognised leaders in the design, manufacture and installation of high-performance industrial lining solutions through its TKO Wear Protection Division, which includes ArmourGRAPH® liners.
The TKO range also includes alumina ceramics, silicon carbide, ceramic paste and epoxies, rubber lining, mining hoses, polyurethane, and UHMWPE lining.
In addition to its wear protection and lining solutions, newGen offers extensive knowledge and expertise in the design, manufacture, installation and service of water delivery, tailings, and slurry pipeline systems.
The newGen team also provides quality fabrication of new products as well as refurbishment services for existing or in-situ equipment requiring re-work or re-lining.
Supporting newGen’s in-house capability is its experienced and highly skilled onsite teams.
Each team is comprised of qualified and highly experienced newGen trades and engineers who can install, test and maintain in any location.
In addition to installing all TKO wear protection and lining systems, the crew can assist in projects and asset maintenance services for shutdowns, and audits and inspections as part of their technical consultancy services.
Quality is assured through newGen’s comprehensive quality documentation processes and procedures.
Above all, the team at newGen offer an ongoing commitment to innovation and to introducing new technologies designed to drive efficiency as evidenced by their continued rollout of graphene enhanced products.
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