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Demonstration of graphene enhanced chemistry points towards lower cost and high performance composite tool designs

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Partners in a recently completed UK government funded NATEP technology programme - Composite Tooling and Engineering Solutions Ltd (CTES), SHD Composites Ltd (SHD) and Applied Graphene Materials plc (AGM) - have subsequently made a significant step forward in demonstrating the viability of an exciting new materials development that has the clear potential to offer significant time and cost savings to aerospace composite tool designers.

SHD, working closely with the project partners, has developed a prototype tooling material that combines cure at initial low temperatures (80-90°C), with the ability to be post-cured to achieve a maximum service temperature in excess of 300°C. This cure flexibility enables the use of low-cost pattern materials and progression to a final production tool without the need for an expensive, time consuming and accuracy-losing intermediate tool phase, or manufacture of an expensive, metallic master model.

The tooling resin chemistry has been enhanced by the addition of AGM’s A-GNP35 graphene nanoplatelets, significantly enhancing the matrix toughness and providing extra resilience against variations in processing conditions and resin micro-cracking over repeated production cycles. The graphene can be applied into the tool structure by addition into the bulk tooling material or discreetly targeted at critical regions by means of AGM’s Structural Ink® printing technology.

The new material has been developed with cost savings to major aerospace programmes in mind and in a technology zone where materials choice and tool design are inextricably and critically linked. The demonstrator was a 10m long CFRP AFP mandrel tool, engineered by CTES (manufactured by Retrac Composites Ltd, Swindon) and was purposely chosen as representative of the industry’s latest and highly demanding requirements.

Over coming weeks, the project team will be disseminating more details through industry forums, however the outcome was very successful, delivering a fully functional composite tool and demonstrating the potential for significantly lower costs, while maintaining the highest performance.

Although the new materials technology remains at the prototype/prove-out stage, the project partners are already actively engaged with interested parties keen to access the benefits of the system. As well as proving out production robustness, development work has also progressed to the processing of the material “out of autoclave”, as well as the potential for applications in prototype tooling for high performing thermoplastic materials.

Tags:  Aerospace  Applied Graphene Materials  Composite Tooling and Engineering Solutions Ltd  Graphene  nanoplatelets  plastics  SHD Composites Ltd 

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£1 million for nanotech: invisibility cloaks, smart tyres and supermarket tags

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Scientists at the University of Sussex have secured a major cash boost for their research into the real-world applications of nanomaterials.  With new funding of £1 million from private company Advanced Material Development, Professor Alan Dalton and his team will pursue their research into nanomaterials, including camouflage technology to stop soldiers from being spotted by thermal imaging cameras or night vision goggles – potentially paving the way for a Harry Potter or Predator-style invisibility cloak. 

The team will also develop their research into anti-counterfeiting graphene inks which can be printed onto clothes and medicine containers; incorporated into smart tyres which monitor for problems; used on banknotes; included on metal-free radio-frequency identification tags (RFID) tags for supermarkets to track products; and wearable technology including monitors for babies’ heartbeats or diabetic patients’ glucose levels. 

Carbon based nanomaterials, such as graphene, are metal-free and more ecologically-friendly than many alternatives. They can also be flexible and highly conductive.

Professor Alan Dalton said: 
“The funding we’ve received from AMD means that we can push forward with our research into useful applications for nanomaterials like graphene. Whether that’s to develop wearable technology to remotely track babies’ heartbeats, or to print ink onto car tyres which can monitor the tyres and warn the driver about problems, the potential applications of these materials are vast.  

“One of the most exciting applications is for camouflage clothing which masks the heat or light being emitted from a material or surface.  This paves the way for one day making a cloaking device like the one in the movie Predator which lowers its wearer’s thermal temperature, or like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.”

The £1 million is split over two years and covers four post-doctorate researchers and various students who will primarily produce nanomaterial inks. The versatile applications include:

Invisibility cloaks for the military and heat-proof windows

When the graphene ink is laid onto a textile or substrate, its reflectiveness can be manipulated.  In the laboratory, Alan Dalton’s team have been able to control how ions move between graphene sheets which modifies the sheet’s optical properties. The team have shown that this works with heat as well as light, recording more than a 5 degree drop in the temperature in the lab.  There are clear military applications for this, using a graphene coating to hide the infrared signature of a soldier, or a vehicle.  With further development, a soldier’s thermal signature could be totally camouflaged to keep them safe from detection at night or from thermal imaging.  

The same technology can work on hard surfaces too such as windows. In hot climates it will be possible to cool a room by reducing the amount of heat passing through the window into it, and visa versa in cold weather. Similarly, the amount of light coming into a room could be changed with the touch of a button.  

Smart tyres which monitor for defects

The team at Sussex are developing a graphene ink which would be flexible and conductive enough to be printed onto car tyres. It would be able to inform the driver about the health of the tyres. In collaboration with AMD, they are already working with a German automotive company on this technology. 

Metal-free tags for supermarkets

AMD and the Sussex team are already working with a major UK retailer on creating metal-free RFID tags for products. They have created an alternative to metal tags on clothing and food by developing antennas based on graphene inks which can be printed onto paper. This will help stores to track their items within supply chains and also to keep more accurate inventories of their stocks within stores.  Retailers will be able to bin their metal-dependent tags and replace them with this much more eco-friendly answer.  There’s no need now for the old fashioned supermarket tags of the past to populate landfill sites.  With various supermarkets pledging to improve their green credentials, including Walmart in the US, this technology is set to disrupt this aspect of the retail sector. 

Anti-counterfeiting for fashion and medicine

The Sussex laboratory has created a way to incorporate an invisible but unique ink-based signature into textiles and onto hard materials.   With this, fashion houses can be sure their clothes are genuinely theirs and not rip-off copies. Hospitals and pharmaceutical companies could likewise be assured of the authenticity of medicines. Even often-stolen items such as metal power line cables could be stamped with the ink so their true origin can be tracked.  

Wearable technology for health

The team have also developed a potentially lifesaving baby monitor to track newborns’ heartbeats remotely in developing countries where medical centres are sparse.  They’re now looking to take the developments further including to create printable tattoos for diabetic patients which could track their glucose levels and give them early notice that they are at risk.

Dr Sue Baxter, Director of Innovation and Business Partnerships, said: 
“The University is thrilled at the ground-breaking technologies that are bursting out of this university-business partnership.  We have such great research capability at Sussex and teaming up with AMD has created a fantastic platform for Alan and his team to get their innovations out of the lab and into our daily lives in a transformational way.”

Professor Dalton’s team has already created a proto-type capacitive sensor for  smart phone screen using silver nanowires and graphene which was both highly conductive, didn’t rely on ITO (which maybe facing critical shortage in supply and contains damaging indium) and crucially is also flexible and almost smash-proof.   

Advanced Material Development was set up in 2017 to develop applications for graphene technology from Professor Dalton’s lab, and is based at the Sussex Innovation Centre.  John Lee (right) is the Chief Executive Officer, Dr James Johnstone (left) is Chief Operating Officer and Alan Dalton is Chief Scientific Officer.  This is the second grant the laboratory has received from AMD, following £600,000 in Autumn 2018. 

Tags:  Alan Dalton  Graphene  James Johnstone  nanomaterials  Sue Baxter  University of Sussex 

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ZEN Graphene Solutions Scaling Up Graphene Production

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. has commenced scale-up and engineering studies on processes for the production of Albany Pure ™ Graphene products at the Company’s research and development facility in Guelph, Ontario. The priority is to increase graphene production in anticipation of future demand as the Company launched graphene product sales in early March 2020. ZEN will also commission the recently purchased purification autoclave to commence the production of high-purity Albany graphene precursor material.

ZEN’s graphene products will now all have the Albany Pure ™ Seal of Authenticity which represents that the material was sourced from unique Albany Graphite and meets the Company’s high-quality standards. Albany Pure ™ Graphene products can be purchased online at https://shop.zengraphene.com/.

The Company will be working with leading university researchers to help facilitate the GO process scale-up at its Guelph facility. The research and engineering team will also be developing and testing custom functionalized graphene formulations as requested by industrial collaborators for product performance enhancement.

The Company has also reviewed operational expenses and eliminated non-core expenditures in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its global economic fallout. This will ensure that scaled up graphene production operations can move forward while the Company remains focused on developing industrial partnerships. ZEN has also eliminated all business-related air travel for employees as well as in-person meetings until further notice.

Tags:  Graphene  graphene oxide  ZEN Graphene Solution 

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Ultrathin graphene film offers new concept for solar energy

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Researchers at Swinburne, the University of Sydney and Australian National University have collaborated to develop a solar absorbing, ultrathin film with unique properties that has great potential for use in solar thermal energy harvesting.

The 90 nanometre material is 1000 times finer than a human hair and is able to rapidly heat up to 160°C under natural sunlight in an open environment.

This new graphene-based material also opens new avenues in:

- thermophotovoltaics (the direct conversion of heat to electricity)
- solar seawater desalination
- infrared light source and heater
- optical components: modulators and interconnects for communication devices
- photodetectors
- colourful display


It could even lead to the development of ‘invisible cloaking technology’ through developing large-scale thin films enclosing the objects to be ‘hidden’.

The researchers have developed a 2.5cm x 5cm working prototype to demonstrate the photo-thermal performance of the graphene-based metamaterial absorber.

They have also proposed a scalable manufacture strategy to fabricate the proposed graphene-based absorber at low cost.

“This is among many graphene innovations in our group,” says Professor Baohua Jia, Research Leader, Nanophotonic Solar Technology, in Swinburne’s Centre for Micro-Photonics.

“In this work, the reduced graphene oxide layer and grating structures were coated with a solution and fabricated by a laser nanofabrication method, respectively, which are both scalable and low cost.”

‌‌“Our cost-effective and scalable graphene absorber is promising for integrated, large-scale applications that require polarisation-independent, angle insensitive and broad bandwidth absorption, such as energy-harvesting, thermal emitters, optical interconnects, photodetectors and optical modulators,” says first author of this research paper, Dr Han Lin, Senior Research Fellow in Swinburne’s Centre for Micro-Photonics.

“Fabrication on a flexible substrate and the robustness stemming from graphene make it suitable for industrial use,” Dr Keng-Te Lin, another author, added.

"The physical effect causing this outstanding absorption in such a thin layer is quite general and thereby opens up a lot of exciting applications,” says Dr Bjorn Sturmberg, who completed his PhD in physics at the University of Sydney in 2016 and now holds a position at the Australian National University.

“The result shows what can be achieved through collaboration between different universities, in this case with the University of Sydney and Swinburne, each bringing in their own expertise to discover new science and applications for our science,” says Professor Martijn de Sterke, Director of the Institute of Photonics and Optical Science.

“Through our collaboration we came up with a very innovative and successful result.

“We have essentially developed a new class of optical material, the properties of which can be tuned for multiple uses.”

Tags:  Australian National University  Baohua Jia  Bjorn Sturmberg  Graphene  Keng-Te Lin  Martijn de Sterke  optoelectronics  photonics  Swinburne University of Technology 

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Graphene-iron filters a promising gas separation tool: research

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
UNSW researchers have shown how a new class of low-cost graphene-based membranes – a type of filter used in industry sectors that generate enormous mixed waste gases, such as solid plastic waste, biowaste or wastewater – can be selectively tuned to separate different gases from gaseous mixtures. 

The team, led by Dr Rakesh Joshi in UNSW Science, hopes that down the track, they’ll be able to use these filters to separate and capture gases that have been considered waste, and therefore improve the way we use waste gas resources. 

The paper - published this month in high-impact journal Advanced Materials - outlines findings made in the lab, on a prototype. Now the researchers want to develop the filter further to make it available to industry. 

Specifically, the team studied graphene oxide filters that – unlike any other current filter – contained iron. 

“Graphene, a thin sheet of carbon atoms that forms in a honeycomb pattern, is considered a wonder material which is stronger than steel. In this piece of work, we essentially incorporated iron into graphene oxide filters, taking advantage of the fact that these membranes are ultra-thin,” says lead researcher Dr Rakesh Joshi. 

“We found that doing this enhanced graphene oxide’s ability to transport gas. It turns out adding the iron – which is what we call a transitional metal – to graphene oxide membranes allowed us to separate different gases more effectively than with other types of filters.

“In particular, the material was great at enhancing permeance – that is, how fast a gas molecule transports through the filter – and selectivity, which represents how efficiently the gas is separated from the mixture during the transportation. In fact, our filter has unpreceded selectivity.”

Separating carbon dioxide from nitrogen
The researchers say the filter described in this paper also allowed them to recover valuable resources by selectively separating carbon dioxide from nitrogen.

“Highly purified nitrogen is widely used in materials processing – for example, in semiconductors manufacturing – as well as in electronic, synthetic, and medical industries,” says Xioheng Jin, the first author of the article. 

“Carbon dioxide is one of the most conventional impurities in gas products. Most current methods to remove CO2 often produce hazardous chemicals, and the separation of CO2 from nitrogen has significant industrial value, especially for greenhouse mitigation of flue gases – e.g., the combustion exhaust gas produced at power plants – that has been a challenge using existing technologies.”

Given the promising results, the researchers hope their findings will lead to new avenues for efficiently separating carbon dioxide from nitrogen and other gases and help them develop new solutions for industry that use this new class of filters for all sorts of applications.

“This finding provides a new opportunity for the application of graphene-based materials in the gas purification industry, for example, in instances where waste solids or waste liquids generate toxic gas mixtures,” says Tobias Foller, co-author of the article .

“We think the filter has the potential to revolutionise the gas separation industry. Ultimately, we hope that our findings help Australia achieve a greener society and a more liveable environment.”

What about other metals?
The team now wants to test the same principle using other types of metals. 

“There are enormous possibilities for all the other transition metals that have not been studied that could be implanted in graphene-based structures and provide exciting gas separation properties,” Xioheng Jin says. 

In 2018, Dr Joshi’s team also successfully demonstrated a graphene-based, laboratory-scale filter that can remove more than 99% of the ubiquitous natural organic matter left behind during conventional treatment of drinking water.

Tags:  Graphene  Rakesh Joshi  Tobias Foller  University of New South Wales  water purification  Xioheng Jin 

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Prize fund available for novel applications of graphene and other 2D materials

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
The Masood Enterprise Centre has opened its annual Eli & Britt Harari Graphene Enterprise Award competition, which offers a £70,000 prize fund for novel ideas involving graphene and other 2D materials that have the potential to be commercialised.

This prestigious award, in association with Nobel Laureate Sir Andre Geim, is awarded each year to help the implementation of commercially-viable business proposals from students, post-doctoral researchers and recent graduates of The University of Manchester based on developing the commercial prospects of graphene and other 2D materials.

The award acts as seed funding to enable budding entrepreneurs to take the first steps towards turning their novel idea into a reality. It recognises the impact that high-level, flexible, early-stage financial support has in the successful development of a business.

Prizes of £50,000 and £20,000 will be awarded to the individuals or teams who can best demonstrate how their technology relating to graphene and other 2D materials can be applied to a viable commercial opportunity.

Last year saw winning teams address key societal challenges on future energy and food security. They sought breakthroughs by using 2D materials to produce hydrogen to generate energy, and by designing polymer hydrogels to increase food production.

As in previous years, winners will also receive valuable tailored support from groups across our University, including the new state-of-the-art R&D facility, the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC); its leading support infrastructure for entrepreneurs, the Masood Enterprise Centre; as well as wider networks to help the winners take the first steps towards commercialising these early-stage ideas.

The award is co-funded by the North American Foundation for The University of Manchester through the support of one of our University’s former physics students, Dr Eli Harari, founder of global flash-memory giant, SanDisk, and his wife, Britt. It recognises the role that high-level, flexible, early-stage financial support can play in the successful development of a business targeting the full commercialisation of a product or technology related to research in graphene and 2D materials.

Tags:  2D materials  Eli Harari  Graphene  Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre  SanDisk  The Masood Enterprise Centre  University of Manchester 

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Applied Graphene Materials sees revenues rise on back of new product launches

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Sales at Teesside's Applied Graphene Materials (AGM) have already exceeded 2019’s total by 20%, according to the firm’s latest interim results.

Revenues rose to £35,000 in the six months to January and are up to £60,000 for the year-to-date, having recorded particularly strong sales in February.

AGM, which is a leading innovator in the manufacture and application of graphene powder, said the business is in a strong position to support further growth, with net cash of £4.3m at the period end – enough to see it through to the fourth quarter of 2021.

Interim losses narrowed to £2.28m compared to 2019’s £2.37m.

The group, which has its headquarters at The Wilton Centre, launched a number of new products last year using its graphene dispersion technology, including an anti-corrosion primer in collaboration with JBL, that bike and car parts specialist Halfords started selling in store and online last October.

Other collaborations included the roll-out of a liquid coating roofing system last August with Alltimes Coatings and a graphene-enhanced anti-corrosion product in January this year for harsh environment industrial application, in conjunction with Blocksil.

A strategic review has shown that Asia has the potential to be a core market for AGM, with the firm saying it had a “positive engagement” with investors in Beijing in October 2019, though the coronavirus outbreak has delayed a follow-up.

AGM, which has sales desks in the UK and Kentucky and Oklahoma in the US, said it is closely monitoring the coronavirus situation and has taken the appropriate precautions to keep employees safe. It doesn't expect the coronavirus pandemic to impact on its cash flow, with remote working and a decrease in travel likely to boost its liquidity.

Chief executive Adrian Potts said : “I am pleased that AGM has continued to make good progress in converting customer engagement into product launches, with several applications launched in the period that are now available to retail as well as specialist industrial customers.

“Our progress continues to be underpinned by AGM’s industry-leading know-how in graphene dispersion and application. We are building an ever-increasing bank of supporting data that will help us accelerate customer application and testing, while the standardisation of a number of our graphene products will also make our material more acceptable to a broader customer base.

“Our focus remains on helping our customers realise the significant commercial potential the incorporation of graphene can offer them. We are confident that our pipeline of engagements is moving progressively towards further product launches and growing revenues in the near-term, with these successes expected to come primarily from our focus area of paints and coatings.”

AGM was founded by Prof Karl Coleman in 2010 with operations and processes he initially developed at Durham University. In 2013 the firm was admitted to the London Stock Exchange’s AIM for smaller companies and expanded its infrastructure to go global.

AGM uses the materials it manufactures to assist customers across a range of sectors who are producing graphene-enhanced products, and the company has a primary focus on anti-corrosion primers’ and coatings.

Tags:  Adrian Potts  Applied Graphene Materials  Coatings  Corrosion  Graphene 

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Gratomic Receives Notice to Grant Mining License

Posted By Graphene Council, Monday, March 30, 2020
Gratomic Inc.is pleased to announce, supplementary to its February 21, 2020 Press Release, that it has received a Notice from the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Namibia that the Minister is prepared to grant Mining License 215 (ML215) for its Aukam Graphite Property in Namibia. The License area falls within the proximity of the Aukam Processing Plant and the Graphite bearing shear zone for a total of 5002 hectares (5002 ha). Securing the mining license is a critical step towards moving the Aukam Mine into commercial production.

The Company has completed 8 months of pilot testing on historically mined product and conducted an internal study on the efficiency of the pilot processing facility on this material. Through rigorous testing and adjustments to the plant, Gratomic can now produce a concentrate of up to 98% Cg. Management has subsequently decided to build a 20 000 tonne per annum processing plant. To date, 90% of construction is complete. Upon completion of the remaining 10%, the Company will initially start processing material from historical workings left at the surface when the mine last operated in 1974.

The Company has recently appointed Dr. Ian Flint to complete a preliminary economic assessment on the Aukam Processing plant. The study, its recommendations, and their subsequent implementation, will ensure the scale up of the existing pilot plant to a commercial scale processing facility that will provide the desired concentrate grades and production rates.

With respect to site exploration, in the coming months diamond drilling will resume at Aukam Graphite. The drilling will be conducted utilizing Company owned drilling equipment, focusing on areas proximal to graphite mineralization, depicted by previous diamond drilling, underground excavation and surface outcrop sampling. The drill targeting will be systematic with the expectation of producing an NI 43-101 resource estimate.

Arno Brand, President and CEO of the Company stated that "the Company will be able to satisfy all of the conditions in the Notice and proceed to commercialization of its Aukam Graphite Mine. This marks a significant milestone for the Company."

Risk Factors

No mineral resources, let alone mineral reserves demonstrating economic viability and technical feasibility, have been delineated on the Aukam Property. The Company is not in a position to demonstrate or disclose any capital and/or operating costs that may be associated with the processing plant.

The Company advises that it has not based its production decision on even the existence of mineral resources let alone on a feasibility study of mineral reserves, demonstrating economic and technical viability, and, as a result, there may be an increased uncertainty of achieving any particular level of recovery of minerals or the cost of such recovery, including increased risks associated with developing a commercially mineable deposit.

Historically, such projects have a much higher risk of economic and technical failure. There is no guarantee that production will begin as anticipated or at all or that anticipated production costs will be achieved.

Failure to commence production would have a material adverse impact on the Company's ability to generate revenue and cash flow to fund operations. Failure to achieve the anticipated production costs would have a material adverse impact on the Company's cash flow and future profitability.

Steve Gray, P. Geo. has reviewed and approved the scientific and technical information in this press release and is the Company's "Qualified Person" as defined by National Instrument 43-101 - Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.

Tags:  Arno Brand  Graphene  Graphite  Gratomic  Ian Flint  Steve Gray 

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Making Progress in Game Changing Supercapacitor Materials

Posted By Graphene Council, Friday, March 27, 2020
First Graphene Limited is pleased to provide an update on its programme to develop novel graphene hybrid materials. In September 2019, the Company announced the signing of a worldwide, exclusive licence agreement with the University of Manchester for the manufacture of hybrid-graphene materials by electrochemical processing.

Two high value product groups can be synthesised using this approach. Firstly, metal oxide decorated materials with high capacitance for applications in supercapacitors and catalysis and secondly, pristine graphene products with tightly controlled specifications for applications in electrical and thermal conductivity. The manufacturing process to be employed builds on the Company’s existing electrochemical processing expertise which is scaled to 100 tonne/year capacity at FGR’s manufacturing site at Henderson, WA.

The licence agreement was quickly followed in October 2019; by the initiation of a UK government funded EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Council) project to transfer the technology from the University laboratories to First Graphene laboratories.

Since October, the Company has successfully transferred the technology to its laboratories in Manchester, UK and has also completed two successful pilot trials at its manufacturing facility in Henderson, WA. Specifically, the Company has demonstrated the following
• Synthesis of metal oxide decorated hybrid graphenes at litre scale in FGR laboratories.
• Synthesis of pristine (zero-oxygen) graphene materials at litre scale in FGR laboratories.
• Manufacture of metal oxide decorated hybrid graphenes at multi-kg scale.
• Manufacture of pristine (zero-oxygen) graphene materials at multi-kg scale.

The structure of the new materials has been confirmed by Raman analysis and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). A typical image of metal oxide decorated graphene is shown in Fig. 1 which shows the nanostructured metal oxides on the surface of an exfoliated graphene platelet.

Currently the FGR team, is testing the performance of these materials in energy storage and catalysis applications. Initial testing shows that prototype supercapacitor devices (coin cell) can be manufactured with these materials. Currently, additional testing is delayed due to restricted access to test facilities as a consequence of COVID-19 actions. Further updates will be provided.

In parallel to the experimental programme, the Company has been actively seeking end-users for novel supercapacitor products. The need for supercapacitors with higher performance from those currently available have been validated by end-users in the aerospace, marine, electric vehicle and utility storage sectors. The company is also actively seeking government funding to develop a new supply chain for game changing supercapacitor devices and have received letters of support from key players.

“We are really excited by the potential for these hybrid-graphene materials” said Craig McGuckin, Managing Director of First Graphene Ltd. “we have proven the chemistry does transfer at scale. We are disappointed that testing is being delayed due to current circumstances but will use this time to strengthen our end-user relationships.”

Tags:  Craig McGuckin  Engineering and Physical Sciences Council  First Graphene  Graphene  supercapacitors 

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​Graphene cleans water more effectively

Posted By Graphene Council, Friday, March 27, 2020

Billions of cubic meters of water are consumed each year. However, lots of the water resources such as rivers, lakes and groundwater are continuously contaminated by discharges of chemicals from industries and urban area. It’s an expensive and demanding process to remove all the increasingly present contaminants, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, perfluorinated compounds, heavy metals and pathogens. Graphil is a project that aims to create a market prototype for a new and improved way to purify water, using graphene.

Graphene enhanced filters for water purification (GRAPHIL) is one of eleven selected spearhead projects funded by The Graphene Flagship, Europe’s biggest initiative on graphene research, involving more than 140 universities and industries located in 21 countries. Chalmers is the coordinator of the Graphene Flagship.

The purpose of the spearhead projects which will start in April 2020, building on previous scientific work, is to take graphene-enabled prototypes to commercial applications. Planned to end in 2023, the project aims to produce a compact filter that can be connected directly onto a household sink or used as a portable water purifying device, to ensure all households have access to safe drinking water.

"This is a brand-new research line for Chalmers in the Graphene flagship, and it will be a strategic one. The purification of water is a key societal challenge for both rich and poor countries and will become more and more important in the next future. In Graphil, hopefully we will use our knowledge of graphene chemistry to produce a new generation of water purification system via interface engineering of graphene-polysulfone nanocomposites," says Vincenzo Palermo, professor at the Department of industrial and materials science.
 
Graphene enhanced filters outperforms other water purification techniques
Most of the water purification processes today are based on several different techniques. These are adsorption on granular activated carbon that removes organic contaminants, membrane filtration that removes for example, bacteria or large pollutants, and reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis is the only technique today that can remove organic or inorganic emerging concern contaminants with high efficiency. Reverse osmosis has however high electrical and chemical costs both from the operation and the maintenance of the system.
 
Many existing contaminants present in Europe’s water sources, including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pesticides and surfactants, are also resistant to conventional purification technologies. Consequently, the number of cases of contamination of ground and even drinking water is rapidly increasing throughout the world, and it is matter of great environmental concern due to their potential effect on the human health and ecosystem.
 
Graphil is instead proposing to use graphene related material polymer composites. Thanks to the unique properties of graphene, the composite material favours the absorption of organic molecules. Its properties also allow the material to bind ions and metals, thus reducing the number of inorganic contaminants in water. Furthermore, unlike typical reverse osmosis, granular activated carbon and microfiltration train systems, the graphene system will provide a much simpler set up for users.

Graphil will not just replace all the old techniques, but significantly out-perform them both in efficiency and cost. The filter works as a simple microfiltration membrane, and this simplicity requires lower operation pressures, amounting in reduced water loss and lower maintenance costs for end users.
 
Upscaling the technique for industrial use
Chalmers has, in collaboration with other partners of the Graphene Flagship, investigated during the last years the fundamental structure-property relationships of graphene related material and polysulfones composition in water purification. A filter has then been successfully developed and validated in an industrial environment by the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) and the water filtration supplier Medica.

Now the task is to integrate the results and prove that the production can be upscaled in a complete system for commercial use.

Prof. Vincenzo Palermo and Dr. Zhenyuan Xia from the department of Industrial and Materials Science, Chalmers will support Graphil with advanced facilities for chemical, structural and mechanical characterization and processing of graphene oriented-polymer composite on the Kg scale. Chalmers’ role in the project will be to perform chemical functionalization of the graphene oxide and of the polymer fibers used in the filters, to enhance their compatibility and their performance in capturing organic contaminants.

"We are very excited to begin this new activity in collaboration with partners from United Kingdom, France and Italy, and I hope that my previous ten years’ international working experience in Italy and Sweden will help us to better fulfil this project," says Zhenyuan Xia, researcher at the Department of industrial and materials science.
 
 
Partners
Graphil is a multidisciplinary project that consists of both academic and industry partners. The academic partners include Chalmers, the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) and the University of Manchester. The industrial partners are Icon Lifesaver, Medica SpA and Polymem S.A – all European industry leaders in the water purification sector. The aim is to have a working filter prototype that can be commercialized by the industry for household water treatment and portable water purification.
 
Funding
The Graphene Flagship is one of the largest research projects funded by the European Commission. With a budget of €1 billion over 10 years, it represents a new form of joint, coordinated research, forming Europe's biggest ever research initiative. The Flagship is tasked with bringing together academic and industrial researchers to take graphene from academic laboratories into European society, thus generating economic growth, new jobs and new opportunities.
 
The total budget of the spearhead project GRAPHIL will be 4.88 million EURO and it will start from April 2020 with a total period of 3 years.

Tags:  Chalmers University of Technology  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  GRAPHIL  nanocomposites  Vincenzo Palermo  water purification  Zhenyuan Xia 

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