The Global Graphene Group (G3) has a 17-year relationship with graphene since Dr. Bor Jang, cofounder of Nanotek Instruments, Inc., discovered graphene in 2002.
Today, the G3 organization currently consists of three groupings of companies. First, there is Nanotek Instruments that holds the over three hundred patents the company has filed since its inception in 1997.
Another of the three branches involves graphene production and this branch includes Angstron Materials Group and Taiwan Graphene Company. Angstron Materials is involved in producing graphene intermediates and thermal interface materials. Taiwan Graphene Company produces graphene oxide and graphene powder.
The third branch of the corporate structure of G3 involves the company’s energy storage interests. This includes two companies: Honeycomb Battery Company and Angstron Energy Company. Angstron Energy produces both a high-energy silicon anode and a graphene-enabled cathode. Honeycomb Battery is focused on producing lithium-sulfur batteries, non-flammable electrolytes and next-generation lithium battery technologies.
G3 recently became a member of The Graphene Council and we took the opportunity to talk to the company’s representatives, including Dr. Jang. Here is our discussion.
Q: The Global Graphene Group (G3) has an interesting pedigree, being a holding company for Angstron Materials, Nanotek Instruments and Honeycomb Battery. Could you provide a bit of background of how the company came to be and how the various companies that make it up create an overall strategy for the commercialization of graphene?
A: In order to properly answer this question, we would like to tell a brief story about a 17-year relationship with graphene.
Dr. Bor Jang founded Nanotek Instruments Inc. in 1997 and over the past two decades, researchers at Nanotek have developed a broad array of nanomaterials and energy storage and conversion technologies.
A significant accomplishment of Nanotek researchers is the fact that Dr. Jang’s research team discovered/invented graphene in 2002, two years before Drs. A. Geim and K. Novoselov published their first paper on graphene in 2004 [Science 306, 666–669 (October 2004)]. Drs. Geim and Novoselov won the 2010 Nobel Physics Prize for their work on graphene.
There is no doubt that Drs. Geim and Novoselov have made highly significant contributions to graphene science and, as such, well-deserve this Nobel Prize. However, it is important for Graphene Council’s members and associates to recognize that Nanotek researchers had submitted three (3) US patent applications and delivered a lecture on graphene before October 2004 when that milestone paper was published. This fact is evidenced in the following:
- B. Z. Jang and W. C. Huang, “Nano-scaled Graphene Plates,” US Patent Application No. 10/274,473 (submitted on 10/21/2002); now U.S. Pat. No. 7,071,258 (issued 07/04/2006).
- B. Z. Jang, et al. “Process for Producing Nano-scaled Graphene Plates,” U.S. Patent Application No. 10/858,814 (06/03/2004).
- Bor Z. Jang, “Nanocomposite compositions for hydrogen storage and methods for supplying hydrogen to fuel cells,” US Pat. Appl. No. 10/910,521 (08/03/2004); now US Pat. No. 7,186,474 (03/06/2007).
- W. Schwalm, M. Schwalm, and B. Z. Jang, “Local Density of States for Nanoscale Graphene Fragments,” Am. Phy. Soc. Paper No. C1.157, 03/2004, Montreal, Canada.
(In March 2004, Dr. Jang and his colleagues (Drs. W. Schwalm, M. Schwalm, and J. Wagner) presented a paper at the American Physical Society’s Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada that discussed the density of state function and related electronic properties of graphene.)
Contrary to the common misconception in the graphene space that the liquid phase exfoliation method was developed in 2008 by a Dublin College team (Hernandez, Y. et al. “High-yield production of graphene by liquid-phase exfoliation of graphite,” Nature Nanotechnology, 3, 563–568 (2008)), Dr. Zhamu/Dr. Jang’s research team at Nanotek developed this method and filed a patent application in 2007.
This provides an effective way of producing pristine graphene directly from graphite without chemical intercalation or oxidation [A. Zhamu, et al., “Method of Producing Exfoliated Graphite, Flexible Graphite, and Nano-Scaled Graphene Plates,” US Patent Application No. 11/800,728 (05/08/2007); now US Patent No. 7,824,651 (11/02/2010)].
Between 2002 and 2007, the Nanotek teams also developed other important graphene production processes, including chemical oxidation, supercritical fluid exfoliation, and electrochemical exfoliation.
Supported by significant IP on several different graphene production processes and graphene applications in composites, thermal management, supercapacitor, and batteries, etc., Drs. Zhamu and Jang decided to co-found Angstron Materials, Inc. in 2007 to begin to scale-up of selected graphene production processes and certain graphene application products.
Subsequently, after many years of development, prototyping, and mass production efforts and establishment of a vast IP portfolio, we found the timing was right for us to establish several business units for more effective commercialization of vastly different products for different industries.
Taiwan Graphene Company (TGC) was founded in 2015 as a leading producer of single-layer graphene oxide, graphene-based nano-intermediates and non-energy-focused application products. Angstron Energy Company (AEC) was founded in 2015 as producer of lithium battery anode and cathode materials. Honeycomb Battery Company (HBC) was also founded in 2015 as a developer and producer of next-generation safe and long-lasting lithium metal batteries, including quasi-solid state battery, lithium-sulfur battery, and lithium-air battery. Angstron Materials was assigned as a research and development company for development of new processes and products. Nanotek remains as the IP-holding company. As suggested by our investors, we also decided to position all five organizations under one umbrella – Global Graphene Group (G3).
Q: How are you marketing graphene at this point, i.e. are you selling graphene raw materials, master batches, etc.? Or are you developing products that incorporate graphene, specifically for Li-ion batteries? Are there other applications you’re pursuing in addition to energy storage?
A: Our Taiwan Graphene Co. (TGC) is selling graphene in powder and dispersion forms, masterbatches for composites, thermal management products, etc. Angstron Energy Co. (AEC) is selling graphene-enabled Si anode materials and graphene-enhanced cathode materials for the lithium-ion battery industry. Honeycomb Battery Company (HBC) is poised to commercialize lithium metal protection technology, non-flammable electrolytes, graphene-enabled sulfur and selenium cathodes, and graphene-enhanced current collectors for next-generation lithium batteries.
Q: What production methods do you use to make your graphene? How has this production avenue determined the applications for your material?
A: We use a combination of improved chemical oxidation process, liquid phase exfoliation, and other proprietary processes, which G3 invented. We have found that different applications require the use of different graphene types produced by different processes.
Q: What have you discovered to be the biggest challenges for your commercialization of graphene and how have you overcome them?
A: We see the greatest challenge to commercialization that it takes time to qualify the application of graphene into various products. We have relationships with several large OEMs in different markets working with our graphene. It just takes time to go through the qualification process.
Q: What direction do you see for the company in the future? Do you see the company moving further up the value chain to the point where all your graphene production is used internally?
A: The future is to grow. We’re targeting to reach $600m+ in annual sales within the next five years between the combination of products in our value chain and graphene raw materials.
Q: What do you think we can expect in the commercialization of graphene over the next 5 to 10 years?
A: Several major applications (so-called killer applications) of graphene are expected to emerge soon. We will see exponential growth as customers integrate graphene into their products to a point where large expansions of graphene manufacturing are necessary. The challenge will be keeping up with the demand.