Electric vehicle makers in the US may struggle to qualify their customers for a federal tax credit under new rules set by the Inflation Reduction Act. Topping the list is a supply chain makeover focusing on domestic sources. That could mean a new market for halloysite, and if you don’t know what that is, we’re all about to find out.
Critical Materials And The Electric Vehicle Tax Credit
Cheers of joy erupted from many electric vehicle fans when they learned that the new Inflation Reduction Act continues an existing federal tax credit and extends it for the next ten years, to the tune of up to $7,500 for new EVs and up to $4,000 for used EVs.
However, there is a big, fat catch. Under the new law, the full credit only applies to an electric vehicle that meets certain requirements.
Among those requirements is a clause covering the domestic source of critical materials used in electric vehicle batteries and other clean tech. That’s a problem because US automakers lean heavily on overseas supply chains for some of those materials.
The Congressional Research Service described the problem just last month, as applied to lithium-ion batteries.
“These EV battery chemistries depend on five critical minerals whose domestic supply is potentially at risk for disruption: lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and graphite,” CRS explained. “The U.S. Geological Survey designated these and other minerals as ‘critical,’ according to the methodology codified in the Energy Act of 2020.”
“The United States is heavily dependent on imports for these minerals for use in EV batteries and other applications. The United States currently mines some lithium, cobalt, and nickel, but it does not currently mine any manganese or graphite,” they added.
Back in 2013, the US established the Critical Materials Institute to accelerate the development of domestic supply chains of critical materials, including recycling. However, as the Congressional Research Service points out, there is still a long way to go.
What Is Halloysite?
The critical materials effort also focuses on alternative materials that can be developed domestically, and that’s where halloysite comes in.
Halloysite is a clay mineral. It belongs to the kaolinite group of clays, which is mainly known in the form of the fine white clay kaolin used to manufacture ceramics as well as paper and paint.
Check out this description from the US Geological Survey and see if you can tell where the fit with cleantech comes in:
“The kaolinite group includes the dioctahedral minerals kaolinite, dickite, nacrite, and halloysite, and the trioctahedral minerals antigorite, chamosite, chrysotile, and cronstedite. The primary structural unit of this group is a layer composed of one octahedral sheet condensed with one tetrahedral sheet. In the dioctahedral minerals the octahedral site are occupied by aluminum; in the trioctahedral minerals these sites are occupied by magnesium and iron.
“Kaolinite and halloysite are single-layer structures. Although dickite and nacrite have the same basic structure, the stacking sequence of layers is different in these minerals. Kaolinite, dickite, and nacrite occur as plates; halloysite, which can have a single layer of water between its sheets, occurs in a tubular form.”
More Hallyosite For The EV Battery Of The Future
If you caught those lines about a single-layer structure that occurs in a tubular form, that’s what all the excitement is about.
The connection is carbon nanotubes, a new (or newish) material that has innumerable cleantech applications.
Carbon nanotubes crossed the CleanTechnica radar back in 2014 as a next-generation solution for EV batteries, in the form of a graphene-doped film that could replace the lithium in lithium-ion batteries.
“The end result would be an EV with extra souped-up energy storage integrated into its body panels, enabling it to charge much more quickly, and travel much farther, than current technology allows,” we enthused at the time.
Perhaps we were getting ahead of ourselves in terms of the carbon angle, but the nanotube concept has taken new life in the form of halloysite.
The startup Ionic Mineral Technologies, for example, burst out of stealth mode last week with a halloysite-derived, nano-silicon material launched under the proprietary name of Ionisil.
“Halloysite’s naturally occurring nanotubular structure enables Ionic MT to employ a ‘top-down’ approach to manufacturing nano-silicon, presenting significant scalability and environmental sustainability advantages compared to competitors,” the company explains. The silicon part of the equation is a naturally occurring silicate shell.
Not hurting Ionic MT’s case is control over a cluster of halloysite deposits, which it claims to to the world’s largest single source of high-purity halloysite.
That could mean various locations around the world, but Ionic MT hints that a domestic supply for US electric vehicle makers is in hand.
“The Company launches just weeks after the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed into law. The IRA’s EV tax credits hinge on domestically produced battery minerals, a largely non-existent supply chain. Ionic MT is positioned to address this ‘Achilles heel’ of the legislation and supply U.S.-sourced battery minerals and materials,” they state.
Also, their website says Utah.
Halloysite Takes Off Like A (Literal) Rocket
Aside from the potential for resolving the domestic electric vehicle supply chain in the US, halloysite could find its way into other cleantech fields.
One interesting development is the creation of “nanorockets” based on a mashup of halloysite, nanoparticles of silver, and a light-sensitive metal oxide nanotube material (in this case, α-Fe2O3). A research team is working that angle to engineer a new, photo-degradation based method for treating organic wastewater.
“Compared to the traditional fabrication of tubular micro-/nanomotors, this strategy has merits in employing natural clay as substrates of an asymmetric tubular structure, of abundance, and of no complex instruments required,” the research team explains.
Another developing field is bioplastics, where researchers are hunting for ways to improve durability and performance without the use of fossil-based inputs.
One avenue of bioplastic research involves nanoscale fillers. A recent article in the materials journal AZoM lists silica, wollastonite, carbon nanotubes, layered double hydroxides, metal oxides, and graphene oxide along with halloysite nanotubes.
Fans of the emerging green hydrogen economy may also want to sit up and take notice. A study published last spring in the journal Nature examined the use of halloysite in a storage medium for hydrogen.
“Halloysite nanoclay as a unique substrate shows favorable properties in terms of hydrogen adsorption using incorporating physisorption and spillover mechanisms,” the study concluded.
In an interesting twist, the storage medium also incorporates graphene quantum dots, in the form of a powder rendered from the juice of a red onion.
For those of you wanting to DIY red onion juice into graphene quantum dots at home, you’ll need a good filter and a sealed autoclave that can maintain a temperature of 180 degrees centigrade for eight hours.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Halloysite nanotubes for the electric vehicle battery of the future, courtesy of Ionic Mineral Technologies (via businesswire.com).
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