February Speaker: New Geological Perspectives on Graphite and Implications for Technological Applications

by Cindy Schmidtlein, MSDC Vice President for Programs

Rebecca Stokes with USGS colleagues standing on a tailings pile at the formerly active Ruby graphite mine outside of Dillon, Montana.

Natural crystalline graphite is an industrial mineral of high criticality for the U.S. economy, driven by its use as the primary anode material in lithium ion batteries, a technology crucial for the energy transition away from fossil fuels. Our speaker for February is Dr. Rebecca Stokes, a research scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) where she conducts research in the broad field of energy materials characterization.

In her presentation, Dr. Stokes will review the use of graphite in advanced technology applications and highlight results from two ongoing research projects. The first is an evaluation of graphite samples from active and formerly active mines from around the world. The second research topic will discuss the role of tectonic deformation on the graphitization process. Results from this study have implications for the use of graphite as a geothermometer in deformed metamorphic terranes, as well as economic implications for graphite mining in regionally deformed rocks.

Rebecca’s current research projects include graphite characterization for battery applications and the catalytic role of clays in natural hydrocarbon production. Rebecca received her B.S. in geology from Texas A&M University in 2006, and a M.S. (2008) and Ph.D. (2012) from Indiana University focused on metamorphic petrology. 

After receiving her doctorate, Rebecca was a Postdoctoral Associate at MIT from where she helped developed an alternative potash fertilizer using K-feldspar.  Rebecca worked in the mineralogy group at Chevron from 2013-2019 specializing in clay mineralogy and shale rock fabric analysis before joining the USGS in 2020. Rebecca is an active member in the Clay Minerals Society and serves as Chair of the Source Clays Committee.