Needless to say, an entirely new class of photodetectors—based on proton transport as opposed to all current photodetectors today that are based on electron transport—is a pretty significant development. You add on to this the fact that the photodetectors made from graphene are 100,000 times more responsive than silicon and you have the basis of a transformative technology.
What regular readers of The Graphene Council may have missed earlier this month in an Executive Q&A with Jeffrey Draa, CEO of Grolltex, was that we got some indications in that interview that the technology being developed in Geim’s lab is ramping up for commercial applications.
Draa said in the interview: “…we’re also starting to get some inquiries for an application that actually Dr. Andre Geim at the University of Manchester, who, of course, was the discoverer of graphene was very passionate about. This is one of the very first applications that he thought futuristically would really make the world a better place, and that third application that we're starting to see on the horizon is graphene as a proton exchange membrane in a hydrogen fuel cell.”
Draa in this interview points to the initial applications that were discussed almost four years ago for this graphene-based proton exchange membrane. At the time, Geim had discovered that contrary to the prevailing wisdom that graphene was impermeable to all gas and liquids it could, in fact, allow protons to pass through. This made scientists immediately conjure up the proton exchange membranes that are central to the functioning of fuel cells.
While there’s no reason to think that these graphene membranes won’t someday make for excellent proton exchange membranes for fuel cells, the problem is that fuel cells are not exactly ubiquitous. However, photodetectors certainly are ubiquitous, making for a much larger potential market for these graphene membranes.
Of course, it’s a pretty big step to make these graphene membranes go from being used for fuel cells to being used in photodetectors. So how did this application switch occur?
The University of Manchester scientists started with monolayer graphene decorated with platinum (Pt) nanoparticles. In operation, photons (light) strike the membrane and excite the electrons in the graphene around the Pt nanoparticles. This makes the electrons in the graphene become highly reactive to protons. This, in turn, induces the electrons to recombine with protons to form hydrogen molecules at the Pt nanoparticles. This process mimics the way in silicon-based photodetectors operate based on electron-hole recombination.
While there are similarities between the semiconductor approach to electron-hole recombination, the photon-proton effect used in this graphene membrane would represent a big departure from the previous approach and nobody is quite sure what the implications might be.
However, it is clear that this graphene membrane that Grolltex is working on with the scientists at Manchester may have a new set of applications that extends far beyond just typical membrane-based technologies.
Last month, The Graphene Council's Executive Director, Terrance Barkan, and its Editor-in-Chief, Dexter Johnson, had the opportunity to have a talk with the CEO of California-based Grolltex Inc., Jeffrey Draa, about the company's business strategies in bringing graphene products to market and his views on graphene's future. Here is that conversation.
Could you tell us a little bit about the background of GrollTex. How did the company get started and how did you get involved with graphene? In particular, could you provide the history of Grolltex as a company?
Sure, so the name Grolltex is short for graphene rolling technologies and the brief history of the company is that my partner and co-founder and really the inventor, Dr. Alexander Zaretski, was a researcher at University of California San Diego.
He was involved with graphene growth andreally got deep into graphene manufacturing techniques while he was at the University of California San Diego. One of the issues with this specific kind of graphene, as generated by chemical vapor deposition (CVD), of course, is the ‘transfer’ issue: How does one get single-layer graphene synthesized from copper off of the copper growth substrate and onto a substrate of interest without destroying the copper growth substrate? Of course, the current state-of-the art is to either acid etch the copper off of CVD graphene, or to use an electrolytic solution to sort of bubble the graphene off of the copper and have it rise to the top after a long period of time.
So both of these two processes, which had been state-of-the art, impact the copper in a very negative way so it's very expensive and not manufacturable. And my partner, Alexander, decided if graphene is going to go forward, there has to be a way to manufacture graphene and not destroy or impact that copper.So he came up with a process to do that, a process that has a rolling schema where we reuse that growth copper over and over again. So that's kind of the background of the company. Alex had decided that he wanted, and felt so passionately about, this transfer technology and bringing it to graphene manufacturing that after completing his work as a researcher at UCSD, he broke out on his own and he asked me if I would be the business side of the company and he had the technical side. So that's kind of a brief background of Grolltex and how we came to be.
I understand you’re privately held company, correct?
We are, yes. We were funded roughly a year and a half ago with our seed funding and we've since about six months ago taken another round.
In terms of your graphene manufacturing that you just laid out, as you said you focused on producing single-layer graphene of the highest quality, so what are the markets that this product offering opens up to you? And what do you see as your strongest market now and do you see that market changing five years from now?
Well, as anybody that has knowledge of the graphene markets knows, single-layer high purity graphene like that synthesized via CVD has many theoretical use cases. We see on the short-term horizon three particular applications that are really kind of starting to command our attention. Those three are number one: sensing. So graphene given its electrical and mass properties makes an excellent sensor at a very, very small level. So sensing is number one.
We also are doing some work in the advanced solar cell arena and we have a grant from the California Energy Commission where we're working on a two-sided solar cell where graphene not only plays the part of barrier material but it's also the electrode material. So that's really exciting.
And for number three we’re also starting to get some inquiries for an application that actually Dr. Andre Geim at the University of Manchester, who, of course, was the discoverer of graphene was very passionate about. This is one of the very first applications that he thought futuristically would really make the world a better place, and that third application that we're starting to see on the horizon is graphene as a proton exchange membrane in a hydrogen fuel cell.
So those are kind of the three leading candidates we see right now. We’re judging that by some initial business that we’re getting in those areas.
You were discussing a number of applications you are pursing, including sensors. On your website you talk about enabling sensors that could be used for the Internet of Things. Can you explain why you see graphene playing such an important role in the development Internet of Things?
I’ll speak a little about graphene as a sensor material. When you combine the electrical conductivity properties along with the fact that graphene is one atom thick, you've got the potential for a sensor that could take us into the future for the next hundred years. We have patents around some designs of graphene-based sensing materials that are so sensitive that, for example, in the biotech world we had some bioengineering folks at Stanford use our sensor to sense the ability of individual heart cells to contract. Currently there only exists a different kind of test that can only count the number of contractions, but our sensor is so sensitive that it picks up the strength of contraction of the individual heart cell when it beats and it's a very robust signal; there's no mistaking it. So that's just one example of the potential of graphene as a sensor and we're seeing good activity there.
What is consistently your biggest challenge when you're talking to potential customers and convincing them how to use your product? Are they worried about pricing of graphene, the quality of product, a consistent supply chain? What stands out as one of the key issues that keeps coming up when you're speaking to these people?
So, I think the first consistent theme would surprise no one,and it's price. Almost any inquiry goes down along the lines of price, especially for a field like solar. If solar is implemented it’s going to need miles and miles of cheap graphene. Now the case of a sensor is not quite as price sensitive, but with regards to the big kind of large applications people think about like flexible displays and some of the other big idea changes for graphene those are really price sensitive. So price is the first one.
We don't get too many concerns with regards to the supply chain. Quality of product is sometimes discussed and that's partly because graphene is such a new field. But a lot of folks have what they are calling graphene and maybe debatably it is not. We don't necessarily have that problem because no one argues that single-layer graphene made by CVD is not graphene, so we don't have any discussion of the quality, but that sometimes can be an issue. So to kind of summarize, and get back to your main question, really price is the first thing that people want and that's the first hurdle you have to get over with almost everyone.
In addition to your graphene product, you're also producing hexagonal boron nitride (sometimes called white graphene). How do you see this material filling out your portfolio and what are the applications for this material that you're currently targeting and do you expect to develop other two-dimensional materials?
Hexagonal boron nitride is something we’re very excited about for several reasons. For the folks that aren't familiar with hexagonal boron nitride, you need to understand how it works with graphene. Graphene is, of course, the most conductive substance known at room temperature; it's on the order of seven times more conductive than copper depending on who you talk to. So as a conductor, graphene is really unparalleled. Now if you're going to design an electronic device of any type, of course, you worry about a conducting material because you can make the wire, the battery, and the switch with the conductive material. But the other thing you have to worry about is the insulating material. What are you going to use for the insulation for graphene? You have to separate the layers of the devices and hexagonal boron nitride is as good an electrical insulator as graphene is a conductor. And hexagonal boron nitride has a hexagonal pattern when it is synthesized in the proper way and that pattern lines up perfectly with the hexagonal lattice pattern of graphene so it also provides the strength benefit too. So it is really the ideal cousin of graphene. If you're an electronic designer, you're going to want both a conductor and an insulator and now we're going to be delivering both.
So that answers your first question and your second question, which was “are we going to develop other two dimensional materials?” As far as basic building blocks, we are going to rest on graphene and hexagonal boron nitride for a time because again those are your two basic building blocks: you need the insulation and the conducting but we also are developing other materials that go into specific devices. So, an example of this is the sensors I talked about that require some precious metal in small quantity—atomic quantity.There are other materials involved when you go to make a specific device, but as far as the basic building blocks we're going to stand pat on graphene and hBN probably for a while.
What is your perspective on hybrid graphene materials? I am referring to this combination of a conductor and an insulator, or even a conductor with a semiconductor, and based on that will you look to develop those hybrids yourself or have your client make the next step in the value chain?
At the moment our clients are doing that work. Now I'm not going to say that we won't get into it, but we're going to be opportunistic with regard to that. With regard to opportunistic roads that we can go down today, our plate is pretty full, but there are several routes we can take. We are seeing folks in the semiconductor world, which is my background, starting to use other materials and creating devices out of some of those second and third level hybrids as you described and that's really exciting work. So we may get into some of that, but again we have a lot on our plate right now just based on what I described already.
I’d like to get your view of the overall industry over the short, middle and long term—five, ten, fifteen years expectations of graphene and the industry. And what is your strategy for best placing your company in the environment that you see developing?
With regard to our company, just saying the word “graphene” to a lot of people opens up so many thought patterns, channels and ideas that one of the things that's going to have to happen is the standards are going to need to be put in place fairly soon so that people can know what they're saying when they say “graphene”.
There's a lot of graphitic solutions out there and hybrids and powders and all kinds of things that debatably aren't graphene (of course, I would say that because of my company is involved in the area that there is no argument that it is pure graphene). But the point of that is we will need some standards and some nomenclature put in place to help take this whole field to the next level.
There's all kinds of great use cases for graphitic solutions that aren't graphene—great use cases, don't get me wrong—but let's make sure that we can assign proper nomenclature so people know what they are talking about and looking at. With regard to my company specifically, one of our challenges is picking our targets because again there are so many kinds of different opportunities. And when we first started out we decided we were going to have a two-phased approach to our business and we're doing the phase one part of that now.
Phase one for us is to make and sell graphene material as research material. So our core customer for our phase one is the university lab and commercial lab. So we sell graphene on copper substrates, on wafers, we sell graphene on customer specific substrates. You send us your substrate of interest and we’ll put our graphene on it and send it back to you. That phase one of our business that I just described to you is allowing us to pursue all kinds of exciting applications and some of them are helping us go in new directions. So, our challenge in the first five years I think is; number one stay on that phase-one path, get to profitability just as a business and number two really pick our paths carefully with regard to what are going to be the first real big market businesses out there in graphene—the ones that have paying customers.
So from a commercialization perspective, I think what you mention is that the majority, or is it basically all, of your customers are they in the testing or R&D category right now?
Yes, that’s fair to say. There's a population of big players in the industry that have their own graphene “skunkworks” that they're just not talking about. For example, I'm just going to throw some names around freely about big companies that we happen to know that do have graphene labs internally that it's just really very hush-hush. The reason we know this is because we know some of the people that have been hired out of other graphene places into these big companies. For example, Apple is one of them. They don't talk about it but they have a big graphene effort. Hewlett Packard is of one of those. Samsung is not bashful about their graphene efforts. So there are a lot of big companies where there is a lot of activity going on but nobody is talking about it so I think there's a lot more happening in graphene than people are even aware of because it’s not being leaked.
One of the things we’re very interested in doing as the Graphene Council is helping to act as a catalyst and accelerate commercialization.
One of the biggest obstacles to commercialization we’ve seen is simply the education of potential end users and consumers.Can you talk a little bit about that? I mean as a company trying to educate potential clients one by one is a time consuming and expensive proposition.
What are the some of the other vertical markets or specific application areas—you mentioned sensors, of course? Are there some other specific areas where you think there's good commercial opportunity where we can help educate those populations?
The first one that comes to mind is the display market. So the display folks, of course, have been using indium tin oxide (ITO) as their core material for decades. ITO is really not a great material for them; it's expensive, it involves dirty mining and it is very prone to pollution when getting it out of the earth. It's also brittle which is why everyone’s display on their phone, their laptop, their television, all displays are brittle; they're like glass.
Graphene is actually a plug and play replacement for ITO and graphene enables flexible displays. So, the first big use case I can think of and that would be the most exciting and the most impactful for the most people is ITO replacement for making flexible displays.
But also I think it’s a use case that's pretty far down the road. It’s very price sensitive for one reason and number two there is a huge infrastructure with multiple large multinational corporations already in place and has been in place for decades with a big manufacturing schema, billions of dollars all lined up to process ITO, etc.. That's not going to shut off overnight and just accept a graphene replacement, right? So, from a price perspective and from an implementation perspective there are some challenges with ITO replacement, but I think that it strikes me as the kind of area where we can start hammering away at some of the existing thinking.
The Graphene Council thanks Jeffrey Draa, CEO of GROLLTEX for his time and unique insights into the developing market for graphene.
Advanced materials company, First Graphene Limited (“FGR” ) has announced an update on its work with the Swinburne University of Technology (SUT) on the development of a new energy storage technology using graphene, referring to their new product as the "BEST™ Battery".
While it is generally accepted that lithium-ion batteries are the state-of-the-art energy storage device available for consumer products today, they are not without their issues. In particular, there are examples where they have been the cause of fires in some instances. There is a vast number of companies and research institutions working to provide safer, more reliable and longer life batteries which utilise materials other than lithium-ion. Some of these involve the use of graphene.
First Graphene, through its research and licencing agreements with Swinburne University of Technology, is pursuing a significantly different path to the development of the next generation of energy storage devices. Rather than trying to improve existing chemical battery technology, it is pioneering the field of advanced supercapacitors which have the potential to change the future for energy storage forever, particularly in handheld and consumer products.
Using the advanced qualities of graphene, First Graphene is developing the BEST™ Battery. This energy storage device promises to be chargeable in a fraction of the time and it will be fit for purpose for at least 10 times the life of existing batteries. It will be significantly safer and more environmentally friendly. All these improvements are made possible because the science relies on physics rather than chemical reactions, and on the remarkable properties of graphene materials.
The table below provides an interesting comparison of key operating parameters of the BEST™ Battery alongside existing lithium-ion batteries and existing supercapacitors available in the market. What is particularly noteworthy is the 10x increase in the energy density expected for the BEST™ Battery, when compared with supercapacitors currently on sale in the market place, and the much lower cost per Wh. These features will provide great commercial advantages.
Table 1: Comparison between BEST™ Target development and existing Li Ion AA Batteries and an existing commercial Supercapacitor.
While the exact details of the design and construction of the BEST™ Battery must remain confidential for reasons of commercial security, First Graphene have disclosed the process of manufacturing the battery involves the use of lasers to create nanopores in graphene-based materials which achieve energy densities more than 10x as great as the pre-existing technology. Practical matters being addressed include the scaling up to the size of the battery from simple laboratory demonstrations of the effectiveness of the science, to devices which will be effective substitutes for batteries used in a wide range of hand held consumer products.
The first few months of the BEST™ Battery development project entailed the recruitment of additional, highly qualified research scientists and the acquisition of specialised equipment needed to prepare and manufacture the components of the BEST™ Battery.
Work has commenced on the improvement of many design aspects in order to optimise the configuration of the battery, with the ultimate objective being to develop a product suitable for mass scale production. At the same time, the methodology of making the battery is being subjected to continuous experimentation to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the materials and processes used in the device. In addition, the pilot production line for building the BEST™ Battery prototype has been set up, which enables the manufacturing of the BEST™ Battery to meet industrial standards.
Swinburne recently reported that a single layer of the BEST™ Battery prototype that made by the pilot production line was able to sustain an LED globe for a period of 15-20 minutes with only a few seconds of initial charge. This is a very significant outcome, auguring well for the ultimate product which is intended to comprise much more than 100 stacked layers of graphene sheets.
The Ragone plot below tracks the continuing improvements in the performance of the BEST™ Battery.
Figure 1: Ragone Plot demonstrating the progress of the BEST™ Battery development toward its goal
Graphene-Based Flexible Smart Watch
The research being undertaken also involves the development of flexible batteries for smart watches which can be incorporated into the watchband itself. These will be light-weight and flexible, they will be able to be recharged in 1-2 minutes, and they will be fit for purpose for many tens of thousands of cycles. Information will be displayed not only on the watch face, but also on the band itself.
While it is intended that the BEST™ Battery development program will eventually provide suitable substitutes for many devices which currently used flat pack and cylindrical batteries, it will also provide batteries for new, innovative purposes. The thin profile of the Battery, and its flexibility, will make it suitable for use in clothing. It could also be integrated into smart watch bands, as an example, rather than having a solid block configuration. It is already showing excellent ability to convert kinetic energy into stored energy due to the speed at which it can charge i.e. simple movement of shaking can recharge the Battery.
Commenting on these progress, FGR’s Managing Director Craig McGuckin said:
“The demonstration of full scale commerciality of the BEST™ Battery will take time, but so far the results have been very encouraging. The science has been proved at laboratory scale and now we are advancing many aspects of materials used and design processes leading to the development and optimisation of production methodology. We are very pleased that Swinburne University of Technology has advised us that the pilot production line is a world first. We are confident that the advantages offered by our technology will bring revolutionary changes to how we use batteries in the future, with added safety, efficiencies and flexibilities. The BEST™ Battery will be a serious game changer”.
TALGA has made a number of noteworthy announcements recently as the company continues to advances its graphene business globally including the appointment of Dr Anna Motta to head up the Company's global graphene product research and development.
Dr Motta’s appointment as Talga’s Research and Development Manager will see her based in Cambridge with responsibilities including management of the Company’s wholly owned UK subsidiary, Talga Technologies Limited and Talga’s graphene product research and development projects globally. In this she joins Talga’s internationally renowned team of graphene technologists Dr Siva Bohm, Dr Mallika Bohm and Dr Sai Shivareddy. Dr Motta will also oversee the delivery of
scale up product developments at Talga’s test facility in Germany.
Dr Motta is an experienced nanomaterial program and technology manager. Her career includes science and management roles in carbon nanomaterial programs at the Helsinki University of Technology and, since 2005, the University of Cambridge, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy (UK). Since 2014, Dr Motta has held the position of Project Manager and Technology Transfer Officer for the Cambridge Graphene Centre (“CGC”) where her responsibilities included oversight of academic and industry collaborations with more than 100 institutions and companies across a large portfolio of UK-EU graphene projects and funding programs. Dr Motta holds a Master of Science (Chemistry) and a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry.
Talga Managing Director Mark Thompson commented: “We are delighted to welcome Anna to our senior management team. She brings a wealth of graphene industry, technology and management experience to Talga at this time of rapid growth in our vertically integrated graphene
business. We also look forward to further successful collaborations with the Cambridge Graphene Centre via their new management appointments.”
Cambridge Graphene Centre Director, Prof Andrea Ferrari, commented: “We are pleased that Anna is moving to Talga, one of the industrial partners of the Cambridge Graphene Centre and Associate Member of the Graphene Flagship. We welcome the strengthening of the Cambridge-based Talga activities on graphene, adding to the value chain of Cambridge-based advanced technology companies working on graphene innovation in close partnership with the CGC. We are also pleased Anna will become a member of our industrial advisory board."
Talga Resources Ltd has also announced the execution of a non-binding memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) with Robert Bosch GmbH (“Bosch”) – a German based multinational engineering and electronics company.
Talga and Bosch have entered into the MOU to commence preparatory work regarding a development project in the field of utilising graphene in the synthesis of macroscopic structures. Talga Managing Director Mark Thompson commented, “Talga is excited to be working with Bosch on its graphene related applications. Bosch is a technology and manufacturing giant and we welcome formalisation of the relationship with them. Our intent is to leverage Talga’s strengths in graphene manufacture and dispersion technology toward success of the project”.
About Robert Bosch: Headquartered in Germany, Bosch is a privately owned engineering and
industrial technology conglomerate that is recognised as the world’s largest supplier of automotive components. Bosch has 450 subsidiaries and regional companies in over 60 countries with sales and service partners in roughly 150 countries. Bosch announced sales revenue in 2016 of ~€73.1 Billion and spent approximately €7 Billion on research and development over the same period.
Advanced materials company, First Graphene Limited (ASX: FGR) is working with the University of Adelaide (UoA) on graphene for industrial building products.
Graphene in Concrete
Experiments have been conducted on the use of graphene oxide (GO) being added to concrete to improve both compressive and tensile strength. However the hydrophilic and high resistivity nature of GO limits its applications in things such as ‘smart’ cement.
Due to the high aspect ratio of nano-reinforcements such as graphene and carbon nanotubes, they have the ability to arrest crack propagation in concrete (by controlling the nano-sized cracks before they form micro-sized cracks) and hence greatly improve peak toughness, making them more effective than even conventional steel bar or fibre reinforcements.
Premium Concrete Products – Smart Cement
Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) operates at such a high-performance level that it competes with steel rather than regular concrete grades. Advantages include lower lead times compared to steel. UHPC can cost in excess of $500/tonne, with enhancements such as micro-reinforcements further increasing the price.
Due to the immense importance of compression strength and other factors such as blast, ballistic and earthquake resistance, additive premiums can be significant. UHPC is over an order of magnitude more expensive than regular concrete, but in an environment where material usage and weight are such essential considerations, it can actually be cheaper to use the more expensive grades in the long run, especially factoring in the reduced maintenance costs incurred by UHPC.
The UoA is testing FGR graphene, with the aim of making “smart cement” with conductive graphene flakes which may;
i. address the concerns of cracking and corrosion, and
ii. provide conductivity for better monitoring the health of concrete structures.
The first test results indicate the addition of just 0.03% standard graphene by weight is the optimal quantity of graphene from the test conducted to date, showing a 22 - 23 % increase in compressive and tensile strength, respectively. The addition of more standard graphene does not increase or decrease the strength of the concrete material when compared to the control in this test work.
Promising Results with Favourable Economics
This initial work has yielded very promising results with very small amounts of FGR graphene required to greatly increase the strength of the materials. Determining the optimum mixing methods and concentration to develop a consistent material will be the key to further developing this project.
The focus of the next stage of the work will be trialling other concentrations of graphene in concrete, specifically loading at 0.01% and 0.1% graphene, and optimisation of the mixing procedures. New methods of incorporating graphene into the concrete mixture will also be trialled.
The graphene provided by FGR will have a range of aspect ratios (smaller sheet sizes) and will be tested over the full range of concentrations. It is anticipated this material will better disperse within the concrete mixture and therefore provide further mechanical strength improvements.
The concrete admixtures market is estimated to be worth US$18.10bn by 2020. The drivers identified for the concrete admixtures demand are growing infrastructure requirements in developing economies, improving economics of construction, and shifting preferences of population towards urbanisation.
Advanced materials company, First Graphene Limited (FGR), has provided an update on its development of the graphene based FireStop™ fire retardant material.
Development of the FireStop™ material is being conducted in conjunction with the University of Adelaide as part of the Company’s participation as a Tier 1 participant in the ARC Research Hub for Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation.
The video below shows the dramatic effectiveness of FireStop™when applied to simple wooden structures. Whereas the untreated structure on the left is totally consumed by fire, the structure treated with the FireStop™ retardant doesn’t even catch fire even after five minutes of trying to light it with a blow torch.
Given that fires generally start at specific ignition points, the ability of a graphene-based retardant to stop the ignition is a key feature of the product. The FireStop™ was applied in three coats, was applied by brush and was less than 500 μm thickness.
Note: There is no sound for this video.
The relevant characteristic of graphene that this demonstration highlights is the very high thermal conductivity i.e. the ability to disburse heat away from the source. FGR is highly encouraged by the results of this simple demonstration, which augers well for subsequent, more advanced and scientifically controlled demonstrations that are being undertaken.
The University of Adelaide has now received a UL-941 system for use in its workshop. It is also installing an LOI instrument for the generation of scientific data. These instruments will enable an acceleration of the test work being conducted to optimise the FireStop™ product and application methodology.
[ UL 94, the Standard for Safety of Flammability of Plastic Materials for Parts in Devices and Appliances testing, is a plastics flammability standard released by Underwriters Laboratories of the United States. The standard determines the material’s tendency to either extinguish or spread the flame once the specimen has been ignited. UL-94 is now harmonized with IEC 60707, 60695-11-10 and 60695-11-20 and ISO 9772 and 9773. ]
Further tests will be conducted to increase the viscosity of the product while maintaining the fire-retardant performance. This work will be the precursor to submitting FireStop™ to FGR’s own testing to the relevant fire standards and to CSIRO for independent testing in Q1 2018. In the meantime, the Company is entering negotiations with potential industry partners for the commercialisation of FireStop™.
A group of researchers from Denmark, UK and Spain within the Graphene Flagship project, explains in a recent review paper why the graphene industry needs better and faster electrical characterisation methods. The Graphene Flagship is a large European project, with more than hundred research groups collaborating on development of novel graphene technologies and applications.
Just 5 years after the first announcement that graphene could be isolated at all, Rod Ruoff (2009) and Samsung (2010) showed that graphene can be synthesized in a deceptively simple way; by decomposing hydrocarbons at high temperature, leaving single layer graphene sheets to crystallise on a copper surface.
Today, just 7 years later, graphene sheets are produced and used in large quantities – or areas – for instance for cell phone touch screens, according to Chinese researchers.
While large-area fabrication is taking off fast, the methods for quality control are lagging behind – and this is particularly true with respect to the electronic properties that are central to many applications.
Electrical measurements are most often done by turning the graphene film into a number of electrical devices, where field effect measurements give the “key performance indicators” of conductivity, carrier density and mobility. Depending on the number of devices, and the time spent on measuring, such tests can also give an idea about the variability. The two main drawbacks are ; (1) the process is fundamentally destructive – the graphene is irreversible damaged in the process, and (2) the throughput is many orders of magnitude smaller than the CVD-based fabrication of the graphene in the first place creating a bottleneck.
Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark and at the National Physics Laboratory in UK have over the past several years developed a number of fast, large-scale, non-destructive characterisation techniques of electronic properties that they believe have the potential to become game changing technologies.
A recent review focuses on one of these: terahertz time-domain spectroscopy (THz-TDS).
THz-TDS shoots terahertz pulses through the graphene and measures how much the film absorbs. The absorption spectrum up to 2 THz depends distinctly on the conductivity as well as on the scattering time – a measure of the average time the carrier spend between collision with obstacles.
Knowing these two, the carrier density and mobility can be computed. The technique has been meticulously verified against electrical measurements and is now being proposed as a metrology standard, in collaboration with the Spanish company DasNano, who are the first to manufacture terahertz-based conductivity mapping equipment for graphene.
Peter Bøggild, professor at DTU puts it like this: “Trivially, there can be no industry without quality, and there can be no quality without quality control. Non-contact mapping is fast and non-destructive, so anyone interested in consistency, reproducibility and reliability of graphene films, should pay attention.”
Quietly, behind the scenes and under the cover of NDA’s and confidentiality agreements, graphene is making significant commercial advances.
Speaking with graphene producers, the story this year has been consistent; they are selling material but they are unable to publicly disclose the end-users or the application areas due to the commercially sensitive information and the desire for their customers to maintain a first mover advantage.
So how do you promote a material for which there are limited examples and the customers will not agree to be named or to allow the products to be disclosed?
Based on conversations with producers, we know enough to be able to say with confidence that the majority of the material being sold is “bulk” graphene; this refers to graphene nano particles (GNPs), graphene oxide (GO) and reduced graphene oxide (rGO), graphene powders, graphene in suspension and graphene sold in master batches.
We know that the lion’s share of the market is for nanocomposite materials based on surveys of more than 400 graphene application developers, producers and end-users. In fact it is more than 50% of the total current market.
These applications include the use of graphene in plastics, polymers, 3D printing, rubber, with carbon fibers and CNTs, as well as in concrete and steel applications.
We also know that virtually every major bona fide graphene producer has announced or has indicated a significant production capacity increase for 2017, 2018 or 2019 at the latest, based on the market pull through for the material.
And this progress is not limited just to bulk graphene but also to single layer CVD graphene as well with the recent ability to produce wafer sized products at a dramatically reduced price compared to just 1 year prior.
How do we take the next steps towards greater commercialization?
The Graphene Council is working with vertical industries, like the composites sector, to help educate and inform those companies that would be the largest buyers and users of this material about how graphene enhances or enables better solutions (strength, flexibility, conductivity, wear resistance, thermal properties, etc.).
We see our mission as being a catalyst to help raise the level of awareness in the end-user community about the possibilities that graphene offers and to dispel some of the myths that have been created from the over-hyped expectations of the past few years.
In a recent review of more than 60 graphene products, more than 45 different material characteristics were listed by at least one of the materials studied. Yet not one single characteristic (not the carbon content, not the carbon layer count, etc.) was common across every product. In fact, there was not a single material characteristic as listed on the specifications sheets that was shared by more than 75% of the products listed.
It is impossible for a buyer of graphene to be able to compare products based on the spec sheets alone and it is prohibitively expensive to expect the consumer to test each supplier’s material to just know what they are getting.
As a result, we see a tremendous need to help buyers identify trusted suppliers of quality materials.
As we enter 2018, The Graphene Council will focus on accelerating the commercial adoption of graphene and representing the interests of our members by;
a.) educating targeted industries like composites, coatings, energy storage, etc.,
inov-8 is launching a revolutionary world-first in the sports footwear market following a unique collaboration with scientific experts. The British brand has teamed up with The University of Manchester to become the first-ever company to incorporate graphene into running and fitness shoes.
Laboratory tests have shown that the rubber outsoles of these shoes, new to market in 2018, are stronger, more stretchy and more resistant to wear.
Michael Price, inov-8 product and marketing director, said: “Off-road runners and fitness athletes live at the sporting extreme and need the stickiest outsole grip possible to optimize their performance, be that when running on wet trails or working out in sweaty gyms. For too long, they have had to compromise this need for grip with the knowledge that such rubber wears down quickly."
“Now, utilising the groundbreaking properties of graphene, there is no compromise. The new rubber we have developed with the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester allows us to smash the limits of grip."
“Our lightweight G-Series shoes deliver a combination of traction, stretch and durability never seen before in sports footwear. 2018 will be the year of the world’s toughest grip.”
Commenting on the collaboration and the patent-pending technology, inov-8 CEO Ian Bailey said: “Product innovation is the number-one priority for our brand. It’s the only way we can compete against the major sports brands. The pioneering collaboration between inov-8 and the The University of Manchester puts us – and Britain – at the forefront of a graphene sports footwear revolution."
“And this is just the start, as the potential of graphene really is limitless. We are so excited to see where this journey will take us.”
The scientists who first isolated graphene were awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2010. Building on their revolutionary work, the team at The University of Manchester has pioneered projects into graphene-enhanced sports cars, medical devices and aeroplanes. Now the University can add sports footwear to its list of world-firsts.
Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan, Reader in Nanomaterials at the University of Manchester, said: “Despite being the thinnest material in the world, graphene is also the strongest, and is 200 times stronger than steel. It’s also extraordinarily flexible, and can be bent, twisted, folded and stretched without incurring any damage.
“When added to the rubber used in inov-8’s G-Series shoes, graphene imparts all its properties, including its strength. Our unique formulation makes these outsoles 50% stronger, 50% more stretchy and 50% more resistant to wear than the corresponding industry standard rubber without graphene.”
“The graphene-enhanced rubber can flex and grip to all surfaces more effectively, without wearing down quickly, providing reliably strong, long-lasting grip."
“This is a revolutionary consumer product that will have a huge impact on the sports footwear market.”
Certainly as one of the leading research institutes in the world for the development of automotive technology, Fraunhofer has a global reputation for delivering the latest cutting edge breakthroughs in any technology associated with the automotive industry from energy storage to lightweight engineering.
Based on Fraunhofer’s titanic reputation in R&D, it was a stroke of luck that The Graphene Council was able to meet up with Fraunhofer’s Head of Functional Materials, Ivica Kolaric, at the Economist’s “The Future of Materials Summit” held in Luxembourg in mid-November.
In his role as leader of the functional material group at Fraunhofer, Kolaric has been conducting research on nanoscale carbon materials, like graphene, for almost 20 years. The aim of all this work has consistently been to produce functionalized nanoscale carbon materials to bring them to industrial applications.
Kolaric and his team have been working specifically on graphene since 2008 and have been synthesizing graphene using both chemical vapor deposition (CVD) as well as exfoliation techniques. With these various grades of graphene, the Fraunhofer researchers have experimented with a variety of applications.
“We first started with applications in the field of energy storage and transparent conductive films,” said Kolaric in an interview at the Luxembourg conference. “As you may remember there was a big discussion a few years back going on if graphene could serve as a replacement for idium tin oxide (ITO). But we determined that this is maybe not the right application for graphene because when you use it large areas for conductive films it’s competing with commodity products.”
Kolaric also explained that Fraunhofer had collaborated with battery manufacturer Maxell in the development of different types of energy storage devices, specifically supercapacitors. They had some success in increasing the energy density of these devices, which is an energy storage device’s ability to store a charge. With the graphene, the increased surface area of graphene did give a boost to storage capabilities but it just couldn’t deliver enough of an increase in performance over its costs, according to Kolaric.
Now Kolaric says that Fraunhofer is looking at graphene in sensor applications, in particular biosensors. “Graphene is really a perfect substrate for doping, so you can make it sensitive for any kind of biological effects,” said Kolaric. “This could make it a very good biosensor.”
But Kolaric cautions that avenues for purification have to be developed. If this and other issues can be addressed with graphene, there is the promise of a sensor technology that could be very effective at detecting gases, which currently is tricky for automotive sensors that are restricted to detecting pressure and temperature. “I think graphene can play an important role in this,” added Kolaric.
In addition to next generation sensors, Kolaric believes that graphene’s efficiency as a conductor could lead to it being what he terms an “interlink” on the submicron level. Kolaric believes that this will lead to its use in power electronics.
Kolaric added: “I would say sensors and serving as an interlink, so these are the two occasions where we think graphene can be effective.”