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Science snapshots from Berkeley Lab

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, December 2, 2019
A Matchmaker for Microbiomes

Microbiomes play essential roles in the natural processes that keep the planet and our bodies healthy, so it's not surprising that scientists' investigations into these diverse microbial communities are leading to advances in medicine, sustainable agriculture, cheap water purification methods, and environmental cleanup technology, just to name a few. However, trying to determine which microbes contribute to an important geochemical or physiological reaction is both incredibly challenging and slow-going, because the task involves analyzing enormous datasets of genetic and metabolic information to match the compounds mediating a process to the microbes that produced them.

But now, researchers have devised a new way to sort through the information overload.

Writing in Nature Methods, a team led by UC San Diego describes a neural network-based approach called microbe-metabolite vectors (mmvec), which uses probabilities to identify the most likely relationship of co-occurring microbes and metabolites. The team demonstrates how mmvec can outperform traditional correlation-based approaches by applying mmvec to datasets from two well-studied microbiomes types - those found in desert soils and cystic fibrosis patients' lungs - and gives a taste of how the approach could be used in the future by revealing relationships between microbially-produced metabolites and inflammatory bowel disease.

"Previous statistical tools used to estimate microbe-metabolite correlations performed comparably to random chance," said Marc Van Goethem, a postdoctoral researcher who is one of three study authors from Berkeley Lab. "Their poor performance led to the detection of spurious relationships and missed many true relationships. Mmvec is a powerful new tool that accurately links metabolite and microbial abundances to solve this problem. There could be wide-ranging applications from clinical trials to environmental engineering. Ultimately, mmvec will allow us to begin moving away from simple pattern recognition towards unravelling mechanisms."

When Solids and Liquids Meet: In Nanoscale Detail

How a liquid interacts with the surface of a solid is important in batteries and fuel cells, chemical production, corrosion phenomena, and many biological processes.

To better understand this solid-liquid interface, researchers at Berkeley Lab developed a platform to explore these interactions under real conditions ("in situ") at the nanoscale using a technique that combines infrared light with an atomic force microscopy (AFM) probe. The results were published in the journal Nano Letters.

The team explored the interaction of graphene with several liquids, including water and a common battery electrolyte fluid. Graphene is an atomically thin form of carbon. Its single-layer atomic structure gives the material some unique properties, including incredible mechanical strength and high electrical conductivity.

Researchers used a beam of infrared light produced at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source and they focused it at the tip of an AFM probe that scanned across a section of graphene in contact with the liquids. The infrared technique provides a nondestructive way to explore the active nanoscale chemistry of the solid-liquid interface.

By measuring the infrared light scattered from the probe's tip, researchers collected details about the chemical compounds and the concentration of charged particles along the solid-liquid interface. The same technique, which revealed hidden features at this interface that were not seen using conventional methods, can be used to explore a range of materials and liquids.

Researchers from the Lab's Materials Sciences Division, Molecular Foundry, and Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Division participated in the study. The Molecular Foundry and Advanced Light Source are DOE Office of Science user facilities.

Underwater telecom cables make superb seismic network

Fiber-optic cables that constitute a global undersea telecommunications network could one day help scientists study offshore earthquakes and the geologic structures hidden deep beneath the ocean surface.

In a recent paper in the journal Science, researchers UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), and Rice University describe an experiment that turned 20 kilometers of undersea fiber-optic cable into the equivalent of 10,000 seismic stations along the ocean floor. During their four-day experiment in Monterey Bay, they recorded a 3.5 magnitude quake and seismic scattering from underwater fault zones.

Their technique, which they had previously tested with fiber-optic cables on land, could provide much-needed data on quakes that occur under the sea, where few seismic stations exist, leaving 70% of Earth's surface without earthquake detectors.

"This is really a study on the frontier of seismology, the first time anyone has used offshore fiber-optic cables for looking at these types of oceanographic signals or for imaging fault structures," said Jonathan Ajo-Franklin, a geophysics professor at Rice University in Houston and a faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab. "One of the blank spots in the seismographic network worldwide is in the oceans."

Tags:  atomic force microscopy  Berkeley Lab  disease  fuel cells  Graphene  Healthcare  Jonathan Ajo-Franklin  journal Science  Marc Van Goethem  microbiomes  Molecular Foundry  Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute  Nano Letters  nanoscale  Rice University  UC San Diego 

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Re-Charging Lithium-Ion Batteries with Graphene

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, December 2, 2019
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019 rewarded the development of the lithium-ion battery. Lightweight and rechargeable, these batteries are now used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles. But, could it be improved? As part of its Spearhead Projects initiative, the Graphene Flagship invested in research to increase the electrode quality of these batteries. This project advanced the pre-industrial production and integration of silicon graphene composites into lithium-ion batteries for high-energy and high-power applications.

Graphene and related materials (GRMs), will play a key role in fulfilling the power requirements of lithium-ion batteries. With a high surface area, large electrical conductivity, light weight nature, chemical stability and high mechanical flexibility, graphene is an ideal material to significantly increase the lifespan, energy capacity and charge rate of lithium-ion batteries.

Entitled Technology of Silicon Graphene Lithium-ion Batteries for Large Scale Production (Batteries), the project to develop this technology was launched in 2017 as part of the Graphene Flagship's six initial Spearhead Projects.

The Batteries project has already achieved great feats. During the first six months, Graphene Flagship partners successfully upscaled the silicon graphene material in readiness for mass production — achieving production qualities in the range of over 100 grams of silicon graphene composite per week.

Looking to the future beyond the Spearhead Project, the goal is to achieve large scale production of silicon graphene lithium-ion batteries and achieve superior capacity and charging capabilities when compared to existing versions.

"The first results are very promising," explained Christoph Stangl, Work Package Leader for Energy Storage at the Graphene Flagship. "For the high-energy cell, we expect to outperform state-of-the-art benchmark cells by 20 per cent in capacity and 15 per cent in energy, with a lifetime target of 300 full cycles. Furthermore, for the high-power cell, a continuous charge and discharge of the final prototype should be possible in only six minutes." 

Tags:  Christoph Stangl  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Lightweight  Silicon Graphene 

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Graphene activates immune cells helping bone regeneration in mice

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Thursday, November 28, 2019
Graphene has been used for many years in the aeronautics and automotive industries and is even used to create new composites. However, it still has a long way to go to offer the consumer the revolutionary applications promised since Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. A team of researchers from several Italian universities within the Graphene Flagship Consortium intends to change this and apply it to regenerative medicine therapies.

Publications about the biomedical applications of graphene-based materials have increased in recent years. So says the researcher from Graphene Flagship partner University of Padua (Italy) Lucia Gemma Delogu, who considers that this is due to its "incredible" physicochemical properties, a long list that ranges from its high flexibility and resistance to its good conductivity, both electrical and thermal.

Delogu and her team have worked to take advantage of the material in the field of biomedicine. Their study, published this year in Nanoscale, shows how the immune properties of graphene allow bone tissue to regenerate in mice. This is possible through nano-tools that can activate or deactivate the immune response, an approach that is of great interest for cancer therapies and tissue engineering.

"Graphene-based materials can improve bone regeneration, a complex process that requires interaction between immune and skeletal cells," Delogu explains to Sinc. In the study, the researchers combined a type of graphene oxide with calcium phosphate, a substance capable of activating this regeneration.

"The injection of the graphene-based material into the tibia of mice showed an improvement in the bone mass in the area and in bone formation, suggesting that the combination is capable of activating monocytes to induce osteogenesis," continues the researcher.

How does the body respond to graphene?

Delogu is also the coordinator of the G-Immunomics project, whose objective is to analyse the impact of graphene on the health of living beings, with a view to its possible biomedical applications. G-Immunomics is one of the Partnering Projects of the Graphene Flagship, a European consortium of more than 150 research centres and companies, with a budget of 1,000 million euros and the goal of taking graphene and related materials towards application.

"The use of graphene in biomedicine may revolutionize medical protocols with new theranostic approaches," a concept that merges the terms "therapy" and "diagnosis" in the context of personalized medicine. "If we learn how graphene interacts with our immune system, we will be able to explore much more specific therapies for the treatment of diseases," she says.

The researcher explains that these interactions are complex, so it is still "an image that lacks several colours." By injecting a material, it comes into contact with the immune cells in the blood, which means that studying the impact of graphene on the immune response is "fundamental".

For this reason, Delogu's team is also studying how graphene can stimulate or suppress the immune response. "Our research wants to show a broad picture of the interaction of immune cells in blood with layered materials such as those based on graphene," with the ultimate goal of their possible to apply in biomedicine efficiently but also safely.

Graphene against osteoporosis
Diseases related to bone loss, such as osteoporosis, are a problem for millions of people worldwide. The World Health Organisation estimates that, in Europe alone, 22 million women and 5.5 million men aged 50-84 suffer from osteoporosis.

"Our preclinical research reveals that functionalized graphene may offer a medical opportunity to fight these bone-related diseases," says Delogu. "By promoting bone regeneration, they could also be used to improve the healing of bone wounds and shorten their duration."

Even, she says, "to combat bone loss suffered by astronauts due to lack of gravity". In this área, Delogu is involved in the project WHISKIES recently funded by the European Space Agency.

For all these reasons, she is confident that graphene can a have a future in biomedicine "We are at an early stage, but we hope that the work will open the door to real clinical applications for graphene-based materials," she says. Her dream is to explore the immunological potential of graphene in other fields of regenerative medicine.

Tags:  Andre Geim  Graphene  Healthcare  Konstantin Novoselov  Lucia Gemma Delogu  Medical  University of Padua 

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Versarien signs textile commercial partnership agreement with MAS

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Thursday, November 28, 2019
Versarien Plc, the advanced materials engineering group, has signed a Commercial Partnership Agreement with textile sector collaboration partner, MAS Innovation (Private) Limited.

Twinery – Innovations by MAS is part of MAS Holdings, a holding company for a portfolio of businesses with a combined revenue of c.US$2 billion which are positioned as one of the world’s most recognised design to delivery solution providers in apparel and textile manufacturing.

MAS is also the largest apparel and textile manufacturer in South Asia.  MAS Holdings is headquartered in Sri Lanka and has 53 manufacturing facilities across 16 countries, with design locations placed in key style centres across the globe and over 99,000 people involved in its operations.

Versarien and MAS have been collaborating since signing a collaboration agreement, as announced on 8 January 2018, to develop new garments utilising Versarien’s graphene ink materials, with several prototypes already having been developed, wearer trials conducted and rigorous testing carried out by a leading UK accredited test house.

The Agreement sets out the basis under which the parties will operate with the objective of securing commercial orders or contracts for garments developed using Versarien’s proprietary graphene ink materials.  The Agreement allows both parties to finalise additional contractual terms with third party brands.  Due to the Agreement’s confidentiality terms and commercial sensitivity, further specific product information may not be disclosed until products are launched into the market.

Neill Ricketts, CEO of Versarien, commented:  “We are delighted to have secured a commercial partnership with MAS, a global apparel manufacturer at the forefront of innovative garment manufacture.  The is the first demonstration of our graphene commercialisation strategy with a major global partner moving from the stage of having a collaboration agreement, through signing a letter of intent, to entering into a full commercial partnership agreement.

“We look forward to working with MAS and its customers to bring innovative graphene enhanced garments to the global marketplace.”

Tags:  Graphene  MAS  Neill Ricketts  Versarien 

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Graphene mapping 50 times faster

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Tuesday, November 26, 2019
If we want to be able to create new and innovative components of two-dimensional materials like graphene, we need tools to characterize their quality. Raman spectroscopy is the gold standard for this, but its major disadvantage is the low speed. Apart from that, the laser light can also damage some of the two-dimensional materials. University of Twente researchers added a smart algorithm to the detection, resulting in ‘Raman’ working at least fifty times faster and making it more ‘gentle’ to sensitive materials. The research is presented in National Science Review.

Graphene is always raising high expectations, as a strong, ultrathin, two-dimensional material that could also be the basis for new components in information technology. There is huge need for characterization of graphene devices. This can be done using Raman spectroscopy. Laser light is sent to the material sample, and scattered photons tell us about the rotations and vibrations of the molecules inside, and thus about the crystal structure. On average, only around 1 in 10 million photons is scattered in this way. This not only makes it hard to detect the right information, it is also very slow: it may take half a second to image one single pixel. The question is if Raman still remains the best option, or if there are better alternatives. UT researchers Sachin Nair and Jun Gao keep Raman spectroscopy as a starting point, but manage to improve the speed drastically: not by changing the technique itself, but by adding an algorithm.

This algorithm is not unknown in the world  of signal processing and it is called Principal Component Analysis. It is used  to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. PCA determines the characteristics of noise and those of the 'real' signal. The larger the dataset, the more reliable this recognition is, and the clearer the actual signal can be distinguished. Apart from that, modern Raman instruments have a detector called electron-multiplying charge-coupled device (EMCCD) that improves the signal-to-noise-ratio. The net result of this work is that processing one pixel doesn’t take half a second, but only 10 milliseconds or less. Mapping a single sample doesn't take hours anymore.An important feature for vulnerable materials like graphene oxide is that the intensity of the laser can be lowered two or three times. These are major steps ahead for getting a fast grip on the materials’ properties.                                                                                                              

Except for graphene, the improved Raman technique can also be used for other two dimensional materials like germanene, silicene, molybdenum disulfide, tungsten disulfide and boron nitride. Use of the algorithm is not limited to Raman spectroscopy; techniques like Atomic Force Microscopy and other hyperspectral techniques could also benefit from it.

The research has been done in the group Physics of Complex Fluids of Prof Frieder Mugele, part of UT’s MESA+ Institute. The researchers collaborated with the Medical Cell BioPhysics group and the Physics of Interfaces and Nanomaterials group, both of the University of Twente as well.

Tags:  Frieder Mugele  Graphene  graphene oxide  Jun Gao  Sachin Nair  University of Twente 

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Industrial scale production of layer 2D materials via intermediate-assisted grinding

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Tuesday, November 26, 2019
The large number of 2D materials, including graphene, hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN), transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) like MoS2 and WSe2, metal oxides (MxOy), black phosphorene (b-P), etc, provide a wide range of properties and numerous potential applications.

In order to realize their commercial use, the prerequisite is large-scale production. Bottom-up strategies like chemical vapor deposition (CVD) and chemical synthesis have been extensively explored but only small quantities of 2D materials have been produced so far.

Another important strategy to obtain 2D materials is from a top-down path by exfoliating bulk layer materials to monolayer or few layer 2D materials, such as ball milling, liquid phase exfoliation, etc. It seems that top-down strategies are most likely to be scaled-up, however, they are only suitable for specific materials.

So far, only graphene and graphene oxide can be prepared at the tons level, while for other 2D materials, they still remain in the laboratory state because of the low yield.

Therefore, it is necessary to develop a high-efficiency and low-cost preparation method of 2D materials to progress from the laboratory to our daily life.

The failure of solid lubricants is caused by the slip between layers of bulk materials, and the result of the slip is that the bulk materials will be peeled off into fewer layers. Based on this understanding, in a new research article published in the Beijing-based National Science Review ("Mass Production of Two-Dimensional Materials by Intermediate-Assisted Grinding Exfoliation"), the Low-Dimensional Materials and Devices lab led by Professor Hui-Ming Cheng and Professor Bilu Liu from Tsinghua University proposed an exfoliation technology which is named as interMediate-Assisted Grinding Exfoliation (iMAGE).

The key to this exfoliation technology is to use intermediate materials that increase the coefficient of friction of the mixture and effectively apply sliding frictional forces to the layer material, resulting in a dramatically increased exfoliation efficiency.

Considering the case of 2D h-BN, the production rate and energy consumption can reach 0.3 g h-1 and 3.01×106 J g-1, respectively, both of which are one to two orders of magnitude better than previous results.

The resulting exfoliated 2D h-BN flakes have an average thickness of 4 nm and an average lateral size of 1.2 µm. Besides, this iMAGE method has been extended to exfoliate a series of layer materials with different properties, including graphite, Bi2Te3, b-P, MoS2, TiOx, h-BN, and mica, covering 2D metals, semiconductors with different bandgaps, and insulators.

It is worth mentioning that, with the cooperation with the Luoyang Shenyu Molybdenum Co. Ltd., molybdenite concentrate, a naturally existing cheap and earth abundant mineral, was used as a demo for the industrial scale exfoliation production of 2D MoS2 flakes.

"This is the very first time that 2D materials other than graphene have been produced with a yield of more than 50% and a production rate of over 0.1g h-1. And an annual production capability of 2D h-BN is expected to be exceeding 10 tons by our iMAGE technology." Prof. Bilu Liu, one of the leading authors of this study, said, "Our iMAGE technology overcomes a main challenge in 2D materials, i.e., their mass production, and is expected to accelerate their commercialization in a wide range of applications in electronics, energy, and others."

Tags:  2D materials  Bilu Liu  CVD  Graphene  Hui-Ming Cheng  Tsinghua University 

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AMD secures further UK Defence and Security Accelerator funding

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Tuesday, November 26, 2019
AMD is delighted to announce its second award for funding via the UK Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) in the field of Nanobarcoding, “Authenticating Critical Components”.

Both the UK &US defence agencies have been extremely supportive of our work and we look forward to continuing developing these rewarding relationships.

CEO John Lee comments “This year has seen a rapid evolution in AMD’s involvement in the area of protecting both military and civilian personnel. Following on from our work in signature management we are now able, with the support of DASA funding, to further our efforts in our key vertical of anti-counterfeiting technologies. 

Our work with the Materials Physics teams at Sussex and now Surrey continues to drive some very exciting areas of innovation with specific commercial applications and it looks like 2020 will see some major developments for us in a multitude of areas.”

AMD is also currently engaged with a number of leading global businesses developing material applications for the commercial and environmental challenges faced in industries such as automotive and consumer supply chains, sensing and life sciences.

Tags:  Advanced Material Development  Graphene  John Lee  nanobarcoding  UK Defence and Security Accelerator 

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Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, November 26, 2019
The meeting marks the starting point of a 4-year research project that is coordinated by CIC nanoGUNE and integrates IBM Research, Donostia International Physics Center, and University of Santiago de Compostela, Technical University of Delft and the University of Oxford. The consortium of these 6 leading European research institutions has been granted a total of €3.5 million from the European Commission under the highly competitive Horizon 2020 FET-Open call, which funds cutting-edge high-risk / high-impact interdisciplinary research projects that must lay the foundations for radically new future technologies.

The SPRING project combines recent scientific breakthroughs from the consortium members to fabricate custom-crafted magnetic graphene nanostructures and test their potential as basic elements in quantum spintronic devices. The targeted long-term vision is the development of an all-graphene – environmentally friendly – platform where spins can be used for transporting, storing and processing information.

As the name suggests, spin can be loosely understood as the rotation of a fundamental particle of matter around itself. For instance, every electron in any material carries both a charge and a spin, the latter playing a key role in magnetism.

Within the scientific community there is consensus that spin is the ideal property of matter to expand the performance of current charge-based nanoelectronics into a class of faster and more power-efficient components, being the basis for the emerging technology called quantum spintronics. The SPRING project will investigate the fundamental laws for creating and detecting spins in graphene, this is to read and write spins, and using them to transmit information.

Jose Ignacio Pascual, Ikerbasque Research Professor at CIC nanoGUNE and scientific coordinator of the project, explains that “graphene is ideal to host spins and to transport them. This atomically thin material can now be fabricated with atomic precision, opening the door to fabrication of designer structures with precise shape, composition, spin arrangement, and interconnected by graphene electrodes for electrostatic or quantum gates. The potential is a platform for the second quantum revolution as qubit elements for quantum computation.”

Tags:  CIC nanoGUNE  Donostia International Physics Center  Graphene  IBM Research  Jose Ignacio Pascual  nanoelectronics  Technical University of Delft  University of Oxford  University of Santiago de Compostela 

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ZEN Graphene Solutions Reports Preliminary Results for Graphene Aerogel Battery Tests

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, November 26, 2019
ZEN Graphene Solutions and its research partner, Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt are pleased to report on additional encouraging results from their battery development program led by Dr. Lukas Bichler and his team at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus (UBC-O). UBC-O has created a Graphene Aerogel composite anode material using a proprietary aerogel formulation containing doping with either ZEN’s reduced Graphene Oxide (rGO) or Graphene Preliminary results indicate that relatively low loadings (<5 wt.%) of graphene-based material, combined with this proprietary aerogel structure, can result in an anode with a significant specific discharge capacity. 

Preliminary best results were achieved with a 2 wt.% loading of Graphene dispersed in aerogel and resulted in an initial specific discharge capacity of 2800 mAh/g and a discharge capacity of 1300 mAh/g after 50 cycles at a current capacity of 186 mA/g. These unoptimized results are believed to be better than those currently reported in the literature for Graphene Aerogel batteries. DLR and ZEN will present a poster of the battery results at the Batterieforum in Berlin, Germany in January 2020. Graphene-containing aerogels could have the potential to be a low-cost, low-weight, high-performance composite materials for near future energy storage applications.

DLR has applied for and received federal funding from the Helmholtz Association to create a new Helmholtz Innovation Lab, called ZAIT, or the Center for Aerogels in Industry and Technology, which will be working together with industrial partners on the development of Aerogels. ZEN supported this application with a letter of intent indicating the Company would continue to collaborate with DLR in developing graphene-based aerogel batteries and other graphene-based products.

“Our work with the team at DLR has led to very promising research and we look forward to continuing this research both at UBC-O and within the new Center for Aerogels in Industry and Technology (ZAIT), a Helmholtz Innovation Lab” commented ZEN CEO Dr. Francis Dubé. Also, Dr. Bichler indicated that “this partnership brings together expertise from Canada and Germany to jointly develop high-tech energy storage systems, which are currently not available on the market”.

Tags:  Batteries  Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt  Energy Storage  Francis Dubé  Graphene  graphene oxide  Lukas Bichler  University of British Columbia  ZEN Graphene Solutions 

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Car of the Future

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Thursday, November 21, 2019
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