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Ramaco Subsidiary Acquires NETL Patent To Commercialize New Uses for U.S. Coal
Coal in a gloved hand.

NETL technology opens opportunities for coal as a manufacturing feedstock.

A revolutionary NETL technology that uses domestic coal as a feedstock to make better batteries, stronger construction materials and improve a wide range of consumer products has been acquired for commercial development by Carbon Holdings Intellectual Properties, a subsidiary of Ramaco Inc.

The Lab’s patented process converts lignite, bituminous and anthracite ranks of coal as well as coal-related mining waste into high-quality, affordable carbon nanosheets. Carbon nanosheets are atomically thin pieces of carbon that can be used to improve the strength of composite materials and the performance of battery electrodes.

“These characteristics make carbon nanosheets a unique candidate for the batteries and concrete composites we use today,” said Christopher Matranga, an NETL researcher who developed the technology with colleagues Fan Shi and McMahan Gray.

NETL’s technology could generate real-world benefits. For instance, concrete remains the most popular construction material in the world, but deteriorates when water penetrates cracks inside it, freezes and expands. A carbon nanosheet additive in concrete formulations could fill the smallest of cracks within a road or structure as it hardens, increasing durability and longevity by preventing water from penetrating the material and causing damage.

The NETL technology makes the large-scale production of carbon nanosheets more approachable by using inexpensive domestic coal as a manufacturing feedstock in a simple one-reactor process with high product yield. The approach brings the manufacturing costs in line with other specialty carbon materials used to enhance high-performance concrete such as carbon fiber. Additionally, it is conceivable that the coal-related waste housed in mine impoundments could also be used to make nanosheets, which offers additional opportunities to manufacture useful products from this waste.

“Under this approach, the carbon is used as a manufacturing feedstock to make valuable products that drive innovations for batteries, building and construction materials and even certain types of electronic devices,” Matranga said.

In 2020, NETL’s low-cost, coal-to-carbon nanosheet manufacturing process received a prestigious R&D 100 Award for being among the 100 most significant technologies introduced to the marketplace in the previous year.

NETL and Ramaco have been longstanding partners. In June 2018, NETL and Ramaco signed a cooperative research and development agreement to discover new uses for coal. NETL researchers have also collaborated with Ramaco to take advantage of coal-derived carbon nanosheets to improve the performance of cement composites.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.