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World’s smallest accelerometer points to new era in wearables, gaming

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Updated: Friday, September 6, 2019
In what could be a breakthrough for body sensor and navigation technologies, researchers at KTH have developed the smallest accelerometer yet reported, using the highly conductive nanomaterial, graphene.

Each passing day, nanotechnology and the potential for graphene material make new progress. The latest step forward is a tiny accelerometer made with graphene by an international research team involving KTH Royal Institute of Technology, RWTH Aachen University and Research Institute AMO GmbH, Aachen.

Among the conceivable applications are monitoring systems for cardiovascular diseases and ultra-sensitive wearable and portable motion-capture technologies.

For decades microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have been the basis for new innovations in, for example, medical technology. Now these systems are starting to move to the next level – nano-electromechanical systems, or NEMS.

Xuge Fan, a researcher in the Department for Micro and Nanosystems at KTH, says that the unique material properties of graphene have enabled them to build these ultra-small accelerometers.

“Based on the surveys and comparisons we have made, we can say that this is the smallest reported electromechanical accelerometer in the world,” Fan says. The researchers reported their work in Nature Electronics.

The measure by which any conductor is judged is how easily, and speedily, electrons can move through it. On this point, together with its extraordinary mechanical strength, graphene is one of the most promising materials for a breathtaking array of applications in nano-electromechanical systems.

“We can scale down components because of the material’s atomic-scale thickness, and it has great electrical and mechanical properties,” Fan says. “We created a piezoresistive NEMS accelerometer that is dramatically smaller than any MEMS accelerometers available today, but retains the sensitivity these systems require.”

The future for such small accelerometers is promising, says Fan, who compares advances in nanotechnology to the evolution of smaller and smaller computers.

“This could eventually benefit mobile phones for navigation, mobile games and pedometers, as well as monitoring systems for heart disease and motion-capture wearables that can monitor even the slightest movements of the human body,” he says.

Other potential uses for these NEMS transducers include ultra-miniaturized NEMS sensors and actuators such as resonators, gyroscopes and microphones. In addition, these NEMS transducers can be used as a system to characterize the mechanical and electromechanical properties of graphene, Fan says.

Max Lemme, professor at RWTH, is excited about the results: "Our collaboration with KTH over the years has already shown the potential of graphene membranes for pressure and Hall sensors and microphones. Now we have added accelerometers to the mix. This makes me hopeful to see the material on the market in some years. For this, we are working on industry-compatible manufacturing and integration techniques."

Tags:  AMO GmbH  Electronics  Graphene  KTH Royal Institute of Technology  Max Lemme  RWTH Aachen University  Sensors  Xuge Fan 

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Grolltex Graphene Closes Oversubscribed Private Placement Financing Round

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Grolltex (named for ‘graphene-rolling-technologies’) is the largest commercial producer of single layer, ‘electronics grade’ graphene and graphene sensing materials in the U.S. They have announced that it has closed a non-brokered, oversubscribed private placement financing, in the form of a convertible note, with local area private investors. 

The gross proceeds of the private placement will be used for general working capital purposes and for increasing the capacity and quality testing capabilities of the company’s production facility in San Diego, California.


The company is focused on delivering inexpensive and enabling solutions to advanced nano-device and graphene sensor makers by fabricating the highest quality single layer graphene attainable, via chemical vapor deposition (or ‘CVD’).

The company is now capable of producing monolayer graphene sensors on large area plastic sheets at a cost of pennies per unit, in a high throughput and sustainable way.  Further, Grolltex is helping customers that currently produce their graphene sensors on silicon wafers, to transition that production capacity to making their sensors on large area sheets of biodegradable plastic instead, at a >100X cost savings. 

Monolayer graphene films are today seen as the most promising futuristic sensing materials for their combination of surface to volume ratio (the film is only one atom thick) and conductivity (the most conductive substance known at room temperature). Markets that are commercializing advanced sensors made of graphene include DNA sensing and editing, new drug discovery and wearable bio-monitors for glucose sensing and autonomous blood pressure monitoring via patches or watch-like wearable bracelet devices.

No securities were issued and no cash was paid as bonuses, finders’ fees, compensation or commissions in connection with the private placement.

Tags:  Biosensor  CVD  Graphene  Groltex  Sensors 

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A Pioneer in Specialty Chemicals Turns Its Attention to Graphene

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Thursday, September 5, 2019
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2019

 

One of the groundbreaking companies in specialty chemicals, Kenrich Petrochemicals Inc. has been a vanguard in developing products for the polymer industry.

The company has turned its expertise and long history of developing industry-leading compounds to the area of graphene and making the “wonder material” even better.

Kenrich recently joined The Graphene Council as a Corporate Member and we took that opportunity to interview Salvatore J. Monte, the president of Kenrich, to learn how Kenrich became involved in graphene and where the company expects graphene development to go in the future.

Q: Can you describe the genesis of how Kenrich started to look at graphene for its specialty chemicals portfolio?

A: The name Kenrich comes from three graduates from the University of Kentucky who planned to get rich by selling a unique aromatic resin/polymeric plasticizer called 'Kenflex® A', produced at Socony Mobil’s R&D laboratories in Paulsboro, NJ via a formalite condensation polymerization of certain gasoline bottoms consisting of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. 

In 1959, DuPont approved Kenflex® A for use in Neoprene® and Hypalon® rubber high voltage wire and cable insulation compounds. The aromaticity worked well in dispersing carbon black and metal oxides.  As a result, Kenrich also got into the business of making paste masterbatches of the metal oxides and other raw materials used to accelerate and cure the rubber insulation compounds.

Kenrich’s current President Sal Monte had married Erika Spiegelhalder, the daughter of the owners of Kenrich Petrochemicals, Inc. and was made VP when he joined the company in April of 1966.  At the time, Monte was a licensed P.E.  He went back to school and in 1969 obtained a M.S. degree in Polymeric Materials at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. 

In 1973, the first titanate coupling agent was invented in an effort to make a good dispersion of 85% of a fine particle ZnO in a naphthenic oil base. Monte tested most of the then known surfactants and could not obtain a satisfactory dispersion.  Frustrated, he had the Kenrich Bayonne, NJ laboratory synthesize a titanate coupling agent by transesterifying 3-moles of isostearic acid with 1-mole of Tetraisopropyl titanate. The resultant titanate dubbed “Ken-React® KR® TTS” worked “best ever” on the ZnO and all the other inorganics and organics such as carbon black in the various masterbatches the company was producing. 

KR® TTS is 2019 EU REACH registered in 680-cosmetic and sunblock formulations based on ZnO and TiO2.  As an example, a 55% masterbatch of the ZnO was made smooth and creamy with just 0.5% additive.

The titanate coupling agents evolved into a distinct product line with 64-commercial titanate and zirconate products under the Ken-React® tradename.  They proved to work where silane coupling agents didn’t in compositions like CaCO3 filled Polypropylene.  The first published technical article on the material appeared in the December 1974 issue of Modern Plastics Magazine with the title: “A New Coupling Agent for Polyethylene”. 

Keep in mind that this article positioned Kenrich’s titanate and zirconates as an alternate coupling agent technology to silane coupling agents that were used in the 1950’s to develop the Corvette glass reinforced polyester composites and that initiated the generation of “plastic” automobiles.  Silanes worked well on silica/fiberglass but did not couple to carbon black and carbon fiber since carbon does not have hydroxyl groups for silane hydrolysis coupling mechanisms.  The producers of silanes state their non-functionality with carbon interfaces in their literature.

Monte went on to write a 340-page book, filed 31-patents worldwide, and wrote over 450-ACS CAS Abstracted “Works by S.J. Monte” and was voted a Fellow of the Society of Plastics Engineers in 2004 around the same time when Professor Sir Andre Geim and Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov of the University of Manchester discovered and isolated a single atomic layer of carbon for the first time known as graphene.

Efforts to make thin films of graphite by mechanical exfoliation started in 1990, but nothing thinner than 50 to 100 layers was produced before 2004. The term graphene was introduced in 1986 by chemists Hanns-Peter Boehm, Ralph Setton and Eberhard Stumpp. It is a combination of the word graphite and the suffix -ene, referring to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.  Monte did his M.S. thesis on the synthesis of polycyclic hydrocarbons such as dimethylnaphthalene in the presence of formaldehyde and sulfuric acid clay catalysts to make a better Kenflex® A.

In the early 1960s, Dr. Akio Shindo at Agency of Industrial Science and Technology of Japan developed a process using polyacrylonitrile (PAN) as a raw material. This had produced a carbon fiber that contained about 55% carbon. In 1960 Richard Millington of H.I. Thompson Fiberglas Co. developed a process (US Patent No. 3,294,489) for producing a high carbon content (99%) fiber using rayon as a precursor. These carbon fibers had sufficient strength (modulus of elasticity and tensile strength) to be used as a reinforcement for composites having high strength to weight properties and for high temperature resistant applications. 

In 1988, Kenrich and General Dynamics wrote a SAMPE technical paper comparing the property improvements in glass, carbon, and Kevlar® fiber reinforced thermosets demonstrating significant improvement and maintenance of mechanical properties of various polymeric compositions.  The maintenance of tensile strength of long carbon fibers in anhydride cured epoxy subjected to 240-hour 10% salt water boil—and other thermosets tested—were quite revealing as they were 5 to 7 times stronger than the control with less than a 3% loss in original properties.  In other words, the carbon interface with a polymer was not deteriorated due to the presence of the zirconate and titanate coupling agents. 

Part of this resistance to deterioration of the carbon/polymer interface is a result of the neoalkoxy coupling mechanism of the patented Ken-React® zirconates and titanates as they couple via proton coordination with the hydrogens and hydroxyls on the carbon interface to form 1.5-nanometer atomic monomolecular layers in the absence of water with no leaving groups.  This is in contradistinction to silanes, which need water and leave water at the interface after coupling.

In simple layman terms, if graphite is the unsliced bologna then graphene are its one-molecule thin slices. The physics of fiber reinforcement materials such as graphite, fiberglass and aramids work on a simple reinforcement principle:  Any composition subjected to direct compression forces will act as a column with no bending stresses if the ratio of the length of the column to the diameter of the column is less than ~ 15:1.  Once the column becomes longer, bending forces come into play.  It’s why the Romans built fat columns and round arches.  For example, concrete has 3,000 psi compression strength and only 300 psi bending strength and that’s why steel rebars are inserted in concrete beams to carry the bending loads.  The reinforcement that carbon fibers bring is in proportion to their length over diameter ratio.  Graphene provides the greatest reinforcement because it is the ratio of its thinness over its cross sectional area.

Kenrich has worked with conductive carbon black for silicone rubber for decades. And in early rubber experiments before graphene was created, Kenrich could disperse carbon black with its titanate and zirconate additives as discussed in the 340-page Ken-React® Reference Manual. 

 Q: How are you currently incorporating graphene into some of your products?

A: We don’t make graphene or graphene-reinforced products – we make graphene work better. Researchers work with our products using graphene. The Chinese are copying a lot of my old literature and using a lot of the older titanates. 

I am much complemented in China and totally ripped off in Japan under a forced licensing of IP to Ajinomoto in an attempt to gain access to the Japanese microelectronics market in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s. For example, all the magnetic recording media and digital copier toner uses my pyrophosphato titanates to eliminate tape hiss and blurred reproduced images. 

We have been doing nanotechnology from the beginning – and graphene is an extension of that work in fulfillment of my mission statement: To make more efficient use of raw materials using titanium and zirconium chemistry.

 Q: How are you sourcing your graphene and what basic types of graphene are you using to create your compounds?

A: We have a full program established with Matthew McGinnis, PhD and Jeff Bullington and will be working with them at Garmor Inc.’s labs in Orlando by MCO airport, which is 20-minutes from my house in Oviedo, FL.

Q: You have worked extensively with carbon black in applications such as Neoprene. Could you explain some of the benefits and challenges that graphene offers over carbon black in those applications in which both can be used?

A: We can compatibilize the interfaces of almost any dissimilar materials – even Addition and Condensation polymers without fillers.

We have recently been awarded a patent compatibilizing oil (polycyclic aromatics - #4 fuel oil) soaked seawater sand with ordinary Portland cement. Graphene has great potential to make any composition stronger – even concrete – and the solutions are at the nanocarbon interface.

Q: What has proven to be the biggest challenge in incorporating graphene into your products?

A: We believe we will achieve complete deagglomeration of Garmor’s graphene oxide and keep it stable in suspension to take full advantage of its geometry.

 Q: Do you anticipate that Kenrich will be using graphene for other products in the future, or do you believe you have already explored all the possibilities for it in your product line?

A: Graphene needs an effective coupling agent in the 21st century such as the mentioned titanates and zirconates, just as silanes did in the 1950’s for fiberglass composites. The work has just begun.

 Q: What are your expectations for the commercialization fo graphene over the next 5 to 10 years?

Graphene will grow significantly once the interfacial coupling agent art becomes part of the fabric of the industry.

 

Tags:  masterbatches  specialty chemicals  titanates 

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Advanced Material Development Ltd announces the appointment of Dr James Johnstone as Chief Operating Officer

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Dr. James Johnstone has over twenty years’ experience in science and innovation in the field of nanotechnology. He has specialised in working with small companies in the advanced materials development and onward application through industry relevant processing techniques during the last eleven years at the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI).

James was a senior bids manager who wrote, advised and taught UK and European companies on the practical benefits of public research and essential value propositions which successful proposals are based on. He has direct team experience of delivering over 15 successful bids from start to contract and raising substantial funding for partners and balancing collaborative interests with organisational ambition.

He brings a wealth of experience managing projects as well as providing more informal innovation support where required.

In this new role, James will support the team at AMD in delivering the overall business for the company and ensuring that delivery of projects is maintained whilst seeking maximum value and suitable exit points.

James has many links to the UK industrial innovation community and public sector including the National Physical Laboratory, the Knowledge Transfer Network (Graphene and Energy Harvesting Special Interest Groups) and the underpinning standards community, He is currently a member of BSI NTI/1 & EPL 501 standards committee and has inputted to the development of critical nano-standards in this area such as BSI PAS 71 and the recent BSI PAS 1201.

AMD CEO John Lee commented “This is a milestone for AMD in the build-out of an experienced and dynamic C-Suite team – James is an engaging and highly innovative individual who will bring a vital skillset to AMD. We are also excited about continuing the strong relationship he has fostered for us with CPI and continuing our development work in formulation and printing of our nanomaterial inks at their facilities”.

Tags:  Advanced Material Development  AMD 

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MIT engineers build advanced microprocessor out of carbon nanotubes

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Tuesday, September 3, 2019

After years of tackling numerous design and manufacturing challenges, MIT researchers have built a modern microprocessor from carbon nanotube transistors, which are widely seen as a faster, greener alternative to their traditional silicon counterparts.

The microprocessor, described today in the journal Nature, can be built using traditional silicon-chip fabrication processes, representing a major step toward making carbon nanotube microprocessors more practical.

Silicon transistors — critical microprocessor components that switch between 1 and 0 bits to carry out computations — have carried the computer industry for decades. As predicted by Moore’s Law, industry has been able to shrink down and cram more transistors onto chips every couple of years to help carry out increasingly complex computations. But experts now foresee a time when silicon transistors will stop shrinking, and become increasingly inefficient.

Making carbon nanotube field-effect transistors (CNFET) has become a major goal for building next-generation computers. Research indicates CNFETs have properties that promise around 10 times the energy efficiency and far greater speeds compared to silicon. But when fabricated at scale, the transistors often come with many defects that affect performance, so they remain impractical.

The MIT researchers have invented new techniques to dramatically limit defects and enable full functional control in fabricating CNFETs, using processes in traditional silicon chip foundries. They demonstrated a 16-bit microprocessor with more than 14,000 CNFETs that performs the same tasks as commercial microprocessors. The Nature paper describes the microprocessor design and includes more than 70 pages detailing the manufacturing methodology.

The microprocessor is based on the RISC-V open-source chip architecture that has a set of instructions that a microprocessor can execute. The researchers’ microprocessor was able to execute the full set of instructions accurately. It also executed a modified version of the classic “Hello, World!” program, printing out, “Hello, World! I am RV16XNano, made from CNTs.”

“This is by far the most advanced chip made from any emerging nanotechnology that is promising for high-performance and energy-efficient computing,” says co-author Max M. Shulaker, the Emanuel E Landsman Career Development Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and a member of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories. “There are limits to silicon. If we want to continue to have gains in computing, carbon nanotubes represent one of the most promising ways to overcome those limits. [The paper] completely re-invents how we build chips with carbon nanotubes.”

Joining Shulaker on the paper are: first author and postdoc Gage Hills, graduate students Christian Lau, Andrew Wright, Mindy D. Bishop, Tathagata Srimani, Pritpal Kanhaiya, Rebecca Ho, and Aya Amer, all of EECS; Arvind, the Johnson Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and a researcher in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Anantha Chandrakasan, the dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; and Samuel Fuller, Yosi Stein, and Denis Murphy, all of Analog Devices.

Fighting the “bane” of CNFETs

The microprocessor builds on a previous iteration designed by Shulaker and other researchers six years ago that had only 178 CNFETs and ran on a single bit of data. Since then, Shulaker and his MIT colleagues have tackled three specific challenges in producing the devices: material defects, manufacturing defects, and functional issues. Hills did the bulk of the microprocessor design, while Lau handled most of the manufacturing.

For years, the defects intrinsic to carbon nanotubes have been a “bane of the field,” Shulaker says. Ideally, CNFETs need semiconducting properties to switch their conductivity on an off, corresponding to the bits 1 and 0. But unavoidably, a small portion of carbon nanotubes will be metallic, and will slow or stop the transistor from switching. To be robust to those failures, advanced circuits will need carbon nanotubes at around 99.999999 percent purity, which is virtually impossible to produce today.  

The researchers came up with a technique called DREAM (an acronym for “designing resiliency against metallic CNTs”), which positions metallic CNFETs in a way that they won’t disrupt computing. In doing so, they relaxed that stringent purity requirement by around four orders of magnitude — or 10,000 times — meaning they only need carbon nanotubes at about 99.99 percent purity, which is currently possible.

Designing circuits basically requires a library of different logic gates attached to transistors that can be combined to, say, create adders and multipliers — like combining letters in the alphabet to create words. The researchers realized that the metallic carbon nanotubes impacted different pairings of these gates differently. A single metallic carbon nanotube in gate A, for instance, may break the connection between A and B. But several metallic carbon nanotubes in gates B may not impact any of its connections.

In chip design, there are many ways to implement code onto a circuit. The researchers ran simulations to find all the different gate combinations that would be robust and wouldn’t be robust to any metallic carbon nanotubes. They then customized a chip-design program to automatically learn the combinations least likely to be affected by metallic carbon nanotubes. When designing a new chip, the program will only utilize the robust combinations and ignore the vulnerable combinations.

“The ‘DREAM’ pun is very much intended, because it’s the dream solution,” Shulaker says. “This allows us to buy carbon nanotubes off the shelf, drop them onto a wafer, and just build our circuit like normal, without doing anything else special.”

Exfoliating and tuning

CNFET fabrication starts with depositing carbon nanotubes in a solution onto a wafer with predesigned transistor architectures. However, some carbon nanotubes inevitably stick randomly together to form big bundles — like strands of spaghetti formed into little balls — that form big particle contamination on the chip.  

To cleanse that contamination, the researchers created RINSE (for “removal of incubated nanotubes through selective exfoliation”). The wafer gets pretreated with an agent that promotes carbon nanotube adhesion. Then, the wafer is coated with a certain polymer and dipped in a special solvent. That washes away the polymer, which only carries away the big bundles, while the single carbon nanotubes remain stuck to the wafer. The technique leads to about a 250-times reduction in particle density on the chip compared to similar methods.

Lastly, the researchers tackled common functional issues with CNFETs. Binary computing requires two types of transistors: “N” types, which turn on with a 1 bit and off with a 0 bit, and “P” types, which do the opposite. Traditionally, making the two types out of carbon nanotubes has been challenging, often yielding transistors that vary in performance. For this solution, the researchers developed a technique called MIXED (for “metal interface engineering crossed with electrostatic doping”), which precisely tunes transistors for function and optimization.

In this technique, they attach certain metals to each transistor — platinum or titanium — which allows them to fix that transistor as P or N. Then, they coat the CNFETs in an oxide compound through atomic-layer deposition, which allows them to tune the transistors’ characteristics for specific applications. Servers, for instance, often require transistors that act very fast but use up energy and power. Wearables and medical implants, on the other hand, may use slower, low-power transistors.  

The main goal is to get the chips out into the real world. To that end, the researchers have now started implementing their manufacturing techniques into a silicon chip foundry through a program by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which supported the research. Although no one can say when chips made entirely from carbon nanotubes will hit the shelves, Shulaker says it could be fewer than five years. “We think it’s no longer a question of if, but when,” he says.

Tags:  Analog Devices  Carbon Nanotubes  Graphene  Max M. Shulaker  MIT  transistor 

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First Graphene announce PureGRAPH Incorporated into Steel Blue Safety Boots

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, August 28, 2019
First Graphene is pleased to advise that in conjunction with Steel Blue have manufactured prototype sets of safety boots incorporating PureGRAPH®10.

The boots were made last week at Steel Blue’s Malaga WA factory and incorporated PureGRAPH® into the safety capped boot TPU soles and polyurethane foam innersole.

Full boots and the sole samples will be exposed to extensive laboratory tests which are expected to exceed current industry standards for safety footwear. Following laboratory testing it is anticipated extensive field trials, will be conducted, lasting approximately six months.

The incorporation of PureGRAPH® into a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is a major advance for FGR. Previously, the successful dispersion of graphene into a TPU masterbatch has been a major graphene industry issue. Extensive research by FGR has resulted in a manufacturing method which has overcome what was previously seen as a real issue.

While existing TPU’s already possess high abrasion resistance and tensile strength it is anticipated the incorporation of PureGRAPH® will improve mechanical properties while providing additional benefits in thermal heat transfer, chemical resistance and reduced permeability. 

FGR will be conducting extensive laboratory tests on the PureGRAPH® infused TPU and polyurethane foam inner sole in Australia and Manchester. Steel Blue safety boot properties are being enhanced by PureGRAPH® in the Metatarsal Guard (Steel Blue’s Met-Guard), which is specially designed to protect the metatarsal area of the foot that extends from the toes. This is a popular choice for mining workers, factory hands and drillers, who often need the extra protection the Met-Guard affords. 

The incorporation of PureGRAPH® in the Met-Guard will improve both flexibility and strength of the product.

“The development work with Steel Blue provides yet another example of FGR working on real industrial applications” said Craig McGuckin, Managing Director First Graphene Ltd. “Like FGR, Steel Blue is an Australian company and the world leader in its field of safety boots systems. These developments continue to enhance that reputation.”

Garry Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Steel Blue said “Steel Blue is committed to developing innovative solutions for our customers. We’re excited by these recent developments with FGR and look forward to delivering these solutions to our market.’’

Tags:  Craig McGuckin  First Graphene  Garry Johnson  Graphene  PureGRAPH®  Ross Fitzgerald  Steel Blue 

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The University of Manchester Joins The Graphene Council

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) becomes the newest member of The Graphene Council

The University of Manchester is home to two world-class, multi-million pound centres for the research and development of graphenerelated materials and applications. In particular, the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) specialises in the rapid development and scale up of graphene and other 2D materials applications, with a focus on: 

• Composites
• Energy
• Membranes
• Inks, Formulations and Coatings
• Graphene production
• Measurements and characterisation

The mission of the GEIC is to help accelerate the transfer of university based research and knowledge into real world commercial applications and is a key player in the UK’s overall initiative to create the world’s most advanced graphene ecosystem. 

James Baker, CEO at Graphene@Manchester stated: “We have decided to become a member of The Graphene Council because of a shared mission to help advance the commercial adoption of graphene as an industrial material, and because The Graphene Council compliments the efforts of the GEIC to help inform important industry sectors like composites, plastics, energy storage, sensors, coatings and many others. We look forward to working together with The Graphene Council as graphene reaches a critical tipping point over the next 12-18 months.”

The Graphene Council is the largest, independent community in the world for graphene researchers, application developers and commercial professionals reaching more than 25,000 individuals and companies globally. 

Terrance Barkan CAE, Executive Director of The Graphene Council said: “We are very honoured to be affiliated with the GEIC and The University of Manchester as the home of graphene’s discovery and where such important work on this material continues apace.

The development of graphene into a world-class commercial material will require the coordinated efforts of the entire supply chain so that the amazing properties of this material can be leveraged for a new generation of products and application that are more effective, longer lasting and much more sustainable for our planet.” 

If your organization would like to learn more about how to leverage the capabilities of graphene materials, please contact graphene.manchester.ac.uk or Terrance Barkan at tbarkan@thegraphenecouncil.org.

***

Listen to the recent Graphene Talk Podcast interview between The Graphene Council and James Baker, CEO of Graphene@Manchester about the state of graphene commercialization and application development. 

 

Tags:  Commercialization  GEIC  James Baker  University of Manchester 

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Are Graphene Companies Missing Out on R&D Tax Credits?

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Friday, August 16, 2019

Technology-based start-up companies typically have teams that know a great deal about the underlying technology and may have fully educated themselves on the commercial markets that they’re targeting for their products. However, knowing the intricacies of different funding mechanisms, or the finer points of corporate tax law, typically are not their strengths.

For the past 22 years, Leyton has been offering an international portfolio of clients a way to maximize the government funding initiatives that are available to them that they may not even be aware of.

Recently, Leyton became a Corporate Member of The Graphene Council and this gave us the opportunity to ask them about their business and what they can do for companies that are trying to succeed in commercializing graphene. Here is our interview with David Marinofsky – Senior R&D Tax Consultant at Leyton.

Q: Can you explain a bit of how your company works and what you provide your clients?

A: Leyton is a global innovation funding consultancy dedicated to helping our clients improve their business performance through utilization of research and development (R&D) tax credits. Our in-house  team  of  highly  experienced  scientists,  engineers,  tax  consultants  and  attorneys produce innovative and sustainable strategies to achieve the maximum eligible financial return, without impacting on a company’s core business or security. We save our clients’ time and generate a tax benefit while maintaining the highest quality of service. We achieve this by adapting to our clients’ environment and time constraints, and by minimizing their involvement, so they can stay focused on their core functions. Leyton only charges a fee if a credit is identified. We follow a clear methodology built on tested know-how and in full compliance with current legislation.

 Q: Essentially, then, your company assists innovative companies in reclaiming R&D tax credits. Could you outline the countries and regions that offer R&D tax credits for companies in the graphene sector?

A: R&D tax credits are offered globally, and can be applicable to various industries, including Material Science, Aerospace, Energy, Electronics, Medical Applications, Automotive, Construction, and many more. Companies developing the graphene material itself, new graphene-based processes or graphene-based products, will all be eligible, irrespective of what industry they operate in. Thanks to Leyton’s 25 regional offices in 11 countries, we are able to work closely with our clients, while our international presence gives us a strong global footprint, diverse sector expertise and the ability to benefit our clients on a global scale.

Q: How can companies take advantage of these tax strategies? What is required to qualify?

A: Regardless of industry, size, or revenue, any business that performs activities that meet the following four-part test may qualify for R&D tax credits:

1)    Technical Uncertainty: An activity performed to eliminate technical uncertainty encountered in the development or improvement of a product or process, which includes techniques, formulations, and inventions.

2)    Process of Experimentation: Activities undertaken to eliminate technical uncertainty where one or more alternatives are evaluated and is typically performed through modeling, simulation, systematic trial and error, or other methods.

3)    Technological in Nature: The process of experimentation fundamentally relies upon the hard sciences, such as chemistry, engineering, physics, biology, or computer science.

4)    Qualified Purpose: The research and development is performed with the purpose of creating new or improved product(s) or process(es) (computer software included) that results in increased performance, function, reliability, or quality.

 Q: Do you have an estimate of how much tax credits can a company might recoup based on their revenues or size?

A: A company’s size or revenue are not main determinants of the credit. Typically the best indicators are the amount of technical salaries and research and development related consumables that are incurred by a company during any given fiscal year. The bigger the pot of qualifying expenditures, the larger the credit will typically be. At the Federal level it is typically around 10% of the qualifying expenditure identified per year, but it is not always a simple 10% calculation due to the incremental nature of the credit. This credit can be used to reduce your current year tax bill, creates a refund if you are submitting on an amended return or can be carried forward for up to 20 years.

 A further determining factor can be in what state the company is located. Many states offer their own R&D credit with the qualifying criteria typically matching that of the Federal credit. As each state has control of their credit, the rates of return will vary but can be at the same level as the federal credit. The great thing is, the state and federal credits are separate, so you can claim them both together!

 A further thing to take note of is that there is an alternative way to realize the credit for qualified small businesses. As early stage companies who were highly innovative but incurring losses could not benefit from the standard credit, the payroll credit was brought into effect. The qualifying activities and expenditures remain the same, as does the amount of credit you receive. However, instead of reducing your income tax liability, which you don’t have, you are able to reduce (and potentially eliminate) your quarterly payroll tax bill. The great thing is, these companies nearly always have employees and a payroll tax bill!

 Q: Do you have an example of how some innovation companies have benefited from your services?

Companies have benefited directly by having the ability to put additional funds back into their business allowing them to hire additional staff, purchase new equipment, or securing a valuable tax credit to reduce their future tax bill. Our experience has shown that this is a perfect benefit for companies no matter what their current stage of growth. Any way to create additional funding is vital for businesses and we understand that, we also understand that your business should be your focus. That is why at Leyton we constantly monitor market developments to provide the most up-to-date funding solutions for our clients, delivered as efficiently as possible.

If anyone has any further questions about our services, our contact details and social media links are covered below:

  Website: www.leyton.com

Email: dmarinofsky@leyton.com

Phone: +1 (347) 417 – 0970.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leytonusa/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeytonUSA

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/leyton-usa/

DISCLAIMER: The Graphene Council does not have ANY financial interest in, and does NOT receive any commissions, participation or any other remuneration connected to Leyton client engagements. Please contact Leyton directly for information on how to obtain R&D Tax Credits. 

Tags:  funding  investment  start-ups  tax credits 

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Using 3-D Printed Mother-of-Pearl to Create Tough New Smart Materials

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, August 12, 2019

The silvery shine of mother-of-pearl has long been prized for jewelry and decorative arts. But the interior of mollusk shells, also known as nacre, is more than just a pretty face. It is actually one of the most robust materials in the natural world. You can drive over nacre with a truck, and while the mollusk shell might crack under the weight, the shiny interior will stay intact.



Professor in the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, Yong Chen and his team have created a new 3-D-printed replica of this natural super-material, which will have important new applications in responsive smart materials and safety devices, such as helmets and armor for sports or military, as well as smart wearable technology, biomedical devices and more.

The work, which was recently published in Science Advances, also represents the first time that electrical fields were used in 3-D printing to form the material, meaning the finished product has strong electrical conductivity. This makes it ideal for smart products.

Chen and postdoctoral researcher Yang Yang worked on the paper with co-authors Qiming Wang, Assistant Professor in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Qifa Zhou, Professor of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Engineering and others.

Chen said that in nature, the main purpose of a material like nacre is to protect a delicate, soft-bodied creature inside the shell.

“Nacre is strong because it stacks microscale and nanoscale components together in a brick-like structure and uses soft material to bind them together.”

Chen said the result was a very lightweight, robust material that was also far more responsive to pressure and loading compared with more rigid materials like ceramic and glass.

“Even very strong glass can be easy to crack when you drop it. Microcracks on the surface of these materials can quickly propagate all the way through it, whereas nacre combines soft and hard material in an intelligent way,” Chen said.

He said that when microcracks form in nacre, the soft material binding the nacre together works to deflect the force of impact and prevent cracks from propagating into more serious damage.

“The main motivation for this research was to see whether we could 3-D print any shape at a microscale, using the architecture of nacre combining both hard and soft materials, to achieve a much tougher structure.”

Replicating nacre with graphene and polymer
To do this, the team used a novel method to build synthetic nacre at a microscale using graphene powder as a building block. The researchers ran an electrical charge of around 1,000 volts through the graphene.

“Originally we had this randomly distributed graphene,” Chen said. “When you add it to the electrical field, these random grains of graphene are aligned parallel to each other.”

“Then we cure the material and finalize the layer. We then stack layer after layer on top so that it is similar in microstructure to nacre,” Chen said.

“We create a composite with polymer, which serves as the soft material inside and between the graphene.”

Chen said that previously nacre-like materials were formed using different approaches, such as magnetic fields to align the particles. After fabrication, the research team conducted material testing that showed the electrically-aligned product was lightweight with strong engineering properties.

He said that while naturally-formed nacre doesn’t conduct electricity, the 3-D printed bioinspired version can. As such, if it were used to fabricate protective material such as helmets or armor, the synthetic nacre can act as a sensor that alerts the wearer of any structural weaknesses before it fails.

The team tested the material by creating a small scale model of a smart helmet. The helmet functioned as a sensor connected to a LED light. When enough pressure was put on the helmet, the LED would be activated, indicating the material was under stress.

“Using the electrical-aligned approach leads to better alignment of the particles. It also means we can work with particles that react to an electrical field. When you use a magnetic field, then you can only work with a particle that reacts to that.”

Chen said that for the next stage of the research, the team would be investigating the new material’s capacity for thermal conductivity, in addition to its mechanical strength and ability to conduct electricity.

Tags:  3D Printing  Graphene  polymers  Qifa Zhou  USC Viterbi School of Engineering  Yong Chen 

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3D printable 2D materials based inks show promise to improve energy storage devices

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Sunday, August 11, 2019
Updated: Sunday, August 4, 2019
For the first time, a team of researchers, from the School of Materials and the National Graphene Institute at The the University of Manchester have formulated inks using the 2D material MXene, to produce 3D printed interdigitated electrodes.

As published in Advanced Materials, these inks have been used to 3D print electrodes that can be used in energy storages devices such as supercapacitors.

MXene, a ‘clay-like’ two-dimensional material composed of early transition metals (such as titanium) and carbon atoms, was first developed by Drexel University. However, unlike most clays, MXene shows high electrical conductivity upon drying and is hydrophilic, allowing them to be easily dispersed in aqueous suspensions and inks.

Graphene was the world’s first two-dimensional material, more conductive than copper, many more times stronger than steel, flexible, transparent and one million times thinner than the diameter of a human hair.

Since its isolation, graphene has opened the doors for the exploration of other two-dimensional materials, each with a range of different properties. However, in order to make use of these unique properties, 2D materials need to be efficiently integrated into devices and structures. The manufacturing approach and materials formulations are essential to realise this.

Dr Suelen Barg who led the team said: “We demonstrate that large MXene flakes spanning a few atoms thick, and water can be independently used to formulate inks with very specific viscoelastic behaviour for printing. These inks can be directly 3D printed into freestanding architectures over 20 layers tall. Due to the excellent electrical conductivity of MXene, we can employ our inks to directly 3D print current collector-free supercapacitors. The unique rheological properties combined with the sustainability of the approach open many opportunities to explore, especially in energy storage and applications requiring the functional properties of 2D MXene in customized 3D architectures.”

Wenji and Jae, PhD students at the Nano3D Lab at the University, said: “Additive manufacturing offers one possible method of building customised, multi-materials energy devices, demonstrating the capability to capture MXene’s potential for usage in energy applications. We hope this research will open avenues to fully unlock the potential of MXene for use in this field.”

The unique rheological properties combined with the sustainability of the approach open many opportunities to explore, especially in energy storage and applications requiring the functional properties of 2D MXene in customized 3D architectures. Dr Suelen Barg, School of Materials

The performance and application of these devices increasingly rely on the development and scalable manufacturing of innovative materials in order to enhance their performance.

Supercapacitors are devices that are able to produce massive amounts of power while using much less energy than conventional devices. There has been much work carried out on the use of 2D materials in these types of devices due to their excellent conductivity as well as having the potential to reduce the weight of the device.

Potential uses for these devices are for the automotive industry, such as in electric cars as well as for mobile phones and other electronics.

Tags:  2D materials  3D Printing  Drexel University  Graphene  Suelen Barg  Supercapacito  University of Manchester 

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