Graphite has long-standing uses in lead pencils and as a mechanical lubricant, but today graphite is also a high-technology material used in composites, electronics and foils. Graphite has a unique set of properties that makes it an essential component in an extremely wide range of applications.
Graphite is electrically and thermally conductive, it is both lubricating and refractory and retains strength at very high temperatures. Graphite is chemically resistant and the mono-layer version - the graphene building blocks - is one of the strongest materials ever tested. The main modern uses of natural graphite is in high-temperature applications, such as crucibles and furnaces, in steel production, brake pads and linings for cars, and in electrical applications and batteries for the complete range of portable consumer electronics. It is also important in electric vehicles. In fact the so-called lithium-ion battery, found in almost all mobile electronic equipment, contains twice as much graphite as lithium. Fuel cell technology is expected to increase demand for natural graphite significantly.
Graphene is predicted to be THE material of the future - a one atom thick layer of graphite carrying all the properties of ordinary graphite in combination with extraordinary strength, stability and flexibility, low weight and transparency. According to the European Commision report on defining critical raw materials, the EU is 95 % dependant on imports of graphite to supply the European industry. The criticality issue probably mainly applies to the flake segment.