CBMM eyeing niobium-graphene synergies in partnership

Brazilian niobium producer CBMM has signed a contract with Singapore-based 2D Materials (2DM), securing funding to boost the development of new applications for the latter’s high performance graphene.

In addition, the funding will scale up the material produced in 2DM’s pilot plant by a factor of 10, bringing the company’s graphene output to commercial scale.

With the move, CBMM will also become a minority shareholder in 2DM.

“The company [CBMM] brings decades of experience developing high value applications for its niobium products, a metal that can be used synergistically with our graphene in the development of new applications, such as anti-corrosion coatings and batteries for electric vehicles,” Patrick Teyssonneyre, CEO of 2DM, said in a statement.

Ricardo Lima, CBMM’s VP of operations and technology, said in the statement that 2DM is also well advised by Konstantin Novoselov, Nobel prize winner in Physics and the first identifier of graphene, and by the National University of Singapore (NUS), a recognized center in advanced materials technologies.

Novoselov reportedly told Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in late October that the future lies in the combination of different advanced materials such as graphene, molibdenium and niobium.

“We love these advanced materials very much and science is extremely excited. We just need to find the practical applications for these materials,” Novoselov told Bolsonaro at a meeting in Brasília, according to a video posted on Bolsonaro’s Facebook page.


The contract comes at a time when statements by Bolsonaro about the government’s interest in metals such as graphene and lithium have become common in Brazilian media and there are currently moves to step up research into the availability of such minerals.

Niobium has been in the spotlight recently in Brazil, supported by Bolsonaro’s passion for the metal. It is constantly lauded by the president as one of the country’s most important mineral riches. However, in August the Brazilian lower house’s mines and energy committee rejected a proposal to create a national policy on niobium production, clashing with Bolsonaro’s views.

Graphene, on the other hand, can be used in segments common to niobium, such as automotive and including batteries for EVs, construction and infrastructure, electro-electronic applications, among others.

“With this partnership, CBMM’s main objective is to take advantage of all possible synergies between graphene and niobium to expand solutions for its customers. The company believes that it can contribute, through its recognized expertise in the development of materials technology and its applications, in market expansion and in the development of customers with global presence,” CBMM said in a separate release.

CBMM is controlled by the Moreira Salles family, which also holds a 33.5% stake in local bank Itaú Unibanco.

The company is a pioneer in niobium exploration and currently controls 80% of the global market for the metal, which is used in steelmaking and for various superconductor materials.

The global niobium market is worth over US$2bn, with the top five niobium importers being China, the US, Germany, the UK and France.

Pictured: Graphene, computer illustration. Credit: AFP

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