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First Graphene March Quarterly Activities Review

Posted By Graphene Council, Saturday, May 2, 2020
On the 18 March, the Company advised shareholders that the University of Manchester had closed all its non-essential research laboratories, including the GEIC, from 5:00pm, Tuesday 17th March. Our staff ensured all experiments were shut down safely, chemicals and raw materials were safely stored, and all confidential papers locked away.

Experimental work in the UK is on hold and our staff have provided scientific support to colleagues in Australia and customers globally, while consolidating our foundations in regulatory approval, manufacturing strategy, intellectual property and new market development. The UK team is well prepared to pick up operations and has identified the steps for immediate return to work once restrictions are lifted.

First Graphene’s key priorities on COVID-19 continue to be for the Company to play its role in limiting the spread of the virus, protecting the health and safety of its employees, delivering value for its customers and stakeholders. We are pleased to report that we have no COVID-19 related illnesses within our workforce.

We are also ensuring the Company is implementing appropriate strategies and actions to place First Graphene in the strongest possible financial position in this ever-changing environment.

In addition to its focus on the health and wellbeing of the workforce the Company implemented strategies to ensure it is in the strongest possible financial position. These strategies continue to be focused on liquidity management and include deferment of non- essential capital and cost reductions while maintaining the continuity of its production and research operations.

Entitlement Issue to Strengthen Balance Sheet
Since the close of the March quarter, the Company has announced that it is undertaking a 1 for 10 Entitlement issue to all shareholders, at a subscription price of 13¢. There will be a 1 for 1 free attaching option for each share taken up, being the same options series currently trading on the ASX (FGROC).

The Company has previously raised equity capital via placements to sophisticated investors who qualify under the s708 Corporations Law exceptions. However, while the Company still has a solid cash position, the directors have elected in this instance, to undertake an entitlement issue despite the share price having been adversely affected by the coronavirus concerns. Directors see this as the best way to make shares available at modest prices to all shareholders equally. Meanwhile, ensuring that the Company is well-funded for the continued and exciting growth curve that has only just begun. A growing business needs higher levels of working capital.
Steel Blue Supply Agreement.

It was announced on 21 January, that Steel Blue had signed a two-year supply agreement whereby it would exclusively source PureGRAPH® for the sole in a new line of work safety boots. Steel Blue will also be looking to include PureGRAPH® into the Met-Guard and other areas of the boot in the future.
 
This Supply Agreement followed on from First Graphene being able to successfully incorporate PureGRAPH® into a thermoplastic polyurethane (“TPU”). While existing TPU’s already possess high abrasion resistance and tensile strength, the incorporation of PureGRAPH® has improved mechanical properties whilst providing additional benefits in thermal heat transfer, chemical resistance and reduced permeability. Continued positive results from mining industry field trials.

As advised on 3 February, the newGen-provided Armour-GRAPH™ bucket liner supplied to a major iron ore producer containing PureGRAPH®20 continued being trialled. The bucket liner showed no signs of advanced wear or scalloping as would normally be experienced with the liners currently used in industry after 24 weeks of use. The client has continued the trial, with a further inspection to be undertaken in another 12 weeks from that date.

The same client also installed a second ArmourGRAPH™ bucket liner at the same Pilbara mine site. With this liner performing well we are now seeing ArmourGRAPH™ liners being installed for trials with other newGen iron ore producing clients.

The buckets were inspected in late April and the PureGRAPH® enhanced bucket liners remained in good operational condition. The client intends to push toward their targeted wear life of twelve months. The next inspection will be in July, at which point the liners will be replaced and returned for post operational inspection. This further demonstrates the dramatically increased wear resistance the PureGRAPH® range of products can provide to sacrificial wear applications.

Developing Advanced Graphene Materials for Next Generation Supercapacitors
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 super capacitor and electrocatalyst applications; and
• Secondly, pristine graphene products with tightly controlled oxygen levels for applications in electrical and thermal conductivity.

The manufacturing process employed builds on the Company’s existing electrochemical processing expertise which is scaled to 100 tonne per 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 was able to demonstrate 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-kilogram scale; and
• Manufacture of pristine (zero-oxygen) graphene materials at multi-kilogram 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.

The FGR team is testing the performance of these materials in energy storage and catalysis applications. Initial testing has shown the prototype supercapacitor devices (coin cell) can be manufactured with these materials. Additional testing is presently delayed due to restricted access to test facilities as a consequence of COVID-19 actions.

In parallel to the experimental programme, the Company has actively sought 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 seeking government funding to develop a new supply chain for game changing supercapacitor devices and have received letters of support from several key industry players.

Continued Growth in Customer Engagement
Despite the circumstances resulting from COVID-19, the Company continued to receive well-qualified enquiries in Australia during March. A number of these were from the mining services sector, which continues to be an area of focus for the Company, where PureGRAPH® has proven its ability to improve mechanical performance in a range of polyurethane based products.

The shutdown in Europe has slowed down customer evaluation trials across the region. However, we can report that a major European based multinational placed a 4th order for kilogram development quantities of PureGRAPH® products for inclusion in an early phase commercialisation programme.

Strong Advances in VFD Development Background Summary on Graphene Oxide
Graphene oxide (GO) is the chemically modified derivative of graphene, whereby the basal planes and edges have been functionalised with oxygen containing functional groups such as hydroxyl, epoxy and carboxyl groups. These oxygen functionalities make GO hydrophilic and therefore dispersible, forming homogenous colloidal suspensions in water and most organic solvents. This makes it ideal for use in a range of applications.

To date, the most widely used process for the synthesis of graphene oxide is the Hummer’s method. This typically requires strong acids and oxidants, such as potassium chlorate (KClO3), nitric acid (HNO3), concentrated sulphuric acid (H2SO4) and potassium permanganate (KMnO4). Much work has been done by other parties to improve the synthesis methods while maintaining high surface oxidation, but these continue to rely on the use of strong acids and oxidants.

Through its subsidiary 2D Fluidics Pty Ltd, FGR has made considerable progress in developing a more benign processing route for oxidised graphene. The objective is to provide controlled levels of surface oxygen functionality to give better compatibility in aqueous and organic systems. This will not incur the higher oxygen (and other defect) levels which result from Hummer’s method and its subsequent reduction steps. It will also provide the ability to “tune or optimise” the surface oxidation level to suit respective applications.

FGR’s method synthesises GO directly from bulk graphite using aqueous H2O2 as the green oxidant. Different energy sources have been used for the conversion of H2O2 molecules into more active peroxidic species, such as a combination of a pulsed Nd:YAG laser and/or other light sources. The irradiation promotes the dissociation of H2O2 into hydroxyl radicals which then leads to surface oxidation.

The technology has been successfully transferred to the FGR laboratories at the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre (GEIC) in Manchester where it has undergone further development and optimisation to identify, understand and resolve future upscaling issues.

XPS analysis showed the use of a pre-treatment step in combination with the near infrared laser gave oxidised graphene sheets with an average surface oxidation of ~30-35%: this will enhance compatibility with aqueous systems.

Further trials have already demonstrated the two-step process is reproducible and versatile, with the ability to process different starting materials of graphite. The multi- disciplinary team has identified the control of the feed rate and energy input will allow us to control the surface oxidation, providing a consistent material that can be tailored as required for a range of applications.

Figure 5 shows that increase in surface oxygen content for two starting materials: graphite ore (top) and PureGRAPH® graphene (bottom). As we go through the two- stage process, in both cases the surface oxygen functionality increases. The end- product has a range of functional groups, including C-O, C=O and COOH.

Launch of Advertising Campaign Directed at Mining Companies
With the success being achieved in mining wear products, the Company is launching an advertising campaign directed at Australia’s mining companies. The campaign will be run on social media platforms and in mining publications. A copy of the proposed advertisement is attached to this Quarterly Activities Review.

Tags:  2D Fluidics Pty Ltd  First Graphene  Graphene  graphene oxide  newGen  Steel Blue  Supercapacitors 

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First Graphene - Quarterly Activities Report

Posted By Graphene Council, Friday, January 31, 2020

First Graphene has continued to make substantial progress in its objective of commercialising the PureGRAPH® range of graphene products during the December quarter. PureGRAPH® has provided a range of improved performance characteristics in a number of products to which it is added.

The Company continues to maintain a strong working capital position, which will drive the growth of First Graphene with increased production efficiencies and higher manufacturing throughput, market development with new customers and novel graphene applications and global supply capabilities.

Steel Blue and First Graphene showcased safety boots at the Polymers in Footwear event in Berlin In November 2019 FGR and Steel Blue gave a joint presentation at the above exhibition and showcased PureGRAPH® enhanced safety boots. First Graphene Ltd and Steel Blue explained how PureGRAPH® had enabled the development of a range of unique boot component technologies and user benefits which have the potential to revolutionise the safety boot market.

The prototype boots have been manufactured using First Graphene’s PureGRAPH® graphene additives. Unlike competing formulations, this is available in high production volumes with non-aggregated, uniform-sized graphene; this ensures it disperses evenly in thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) masterbatches.  The prototype boots incorporate PureGRAPH®-infused TPU soles and polyurethane foam innersoles and had undergone extensive laboratory testing in accredited laboratories.

Tests had been conducted at Viclab Pty Ltd, one of Australia’s leading NATA accredited and independent mechanical testing services. 

The prototype boots complied with the following test procedures;
Impact resistance
Upper to outsole bond
Interlayer bond strength
Slip resistance on ceramic tile floor with NaLS and on steel floor with glycerine
Sole crack resistance
Tear strength
Abrasion (TPU)
Tensile
Hydrolysis
Fuel oil resistance
Chemical exposure (NaOH)

Steel Blue have continued to test different applications and processes, with ongoing measuring of outcomes by Viclab Pty Ltd. The collaboration led to the successful manufacturing of prototypes, and these are currently being wear trialled in a variety of working environments.

The new boot from Steel Blue incorporates innovative technology with new design solutions to provide significant improvements to safety footwear protection and comfort.

Positive Interim Results from Mining Industry Field Trials
In December, FGR was pleased to announce an update on the Armour-GRAPH™ bucket liner provided by newGen to a major Pilbara iron ore producer.

newGen had provided an Armour-GRAPH™ bucket liner to a major iron ore  producer for trial which contained PureGRAPH®20. The bucket had been in use for in excess of 12 weeks at the time it was inspected by the client for assessment of wear, with very pleasing results. The next assessment is due to be undertaken in January.

Preparations were underway to trial PureGRAPH® enhanced materials in equipment used by a second iron ore producer.

Continued Growth in Customer Engagement
Customer growth continued apace during the December quarter, with engagements in the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia markets. The Company’s focus continues to be in the development of elastomers and plastics and the composites industries as it is these markets which have the potential to generate the largest volume of sales.

Activities at the GEIC, Manchester,UK
The Company continues to make effective use of it’s presence as a Tier 1 partner at the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre, where the facilities are routinely used to host customer visits and the capabilities deployed to prepare PureGRAPH® dispersions for a range of customer evaluations; from TPU elastomers to coating precursors. The UK team have developed a strong relationship with the academic departments with active relationships with the Chemistry, Civil Engineering, and Composites & Textiles departments.

2019 – A Year in Review

The 2019 calendar year has seen FGR make considerable progress as the world’s leading graphene company. The Company has continued to automate its  production process, maintain its high-quality standards and develop its in-house product development and testing platform.

Customer engagement has accelerated as a result of the marketing efforts and the release of the Company’s B2B focussed website.

There has been extensive field testing by customers of the PureGRAPH® range of products, all of which have been successful and resulted in ongoing collaboration. That this process has not manifested itself in more extensive sales is the one area of disappointment. However, as previously stated by Warwick “The larger the organisation the longer the time frame that would typically extend beyond 12 months. Offsetting this though is the prospect of larger size sales.” The Board of Directors and Senior Management team see 2020 as the year in which FGR will achieve significant sales growth, having built a very solid base during 2019.

Tags:  First Graphene  Graphene  newGen  polymers  Steel Blue  Viclab Pty Ltd 

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UPDATED ARTICLE: First Graphene's PureGRAPH™ is Demonstrated In A Real-World Application In The Mining Industry

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Updated: Friday, October 26, 2018

On 26 October 2018 we reported that the advanced materials company, First Graphene Ltd (“FGR”) (ASX: FGR) released an update on the use of its PureGRAPH™ products in the mining services sector.

FGR has now followed up with a confirmed purchase order for 2,000 kg of their PureGRAPH™ material to be delivered during 2019, for use in the Armour-GRAPH™ product range in a mining equipment application. 

The purchase order for 2,000kg of PureGRAPH™ range products from newGen for delivery during 2019, represents a significant development not only for FGR, but also for the broader graphene market. It demonstrates the initial market appetite for high quality bulk graphene products of the type in which FGR specialises. Up until now the graphene sector has been supplying mostly samples for evaluation. This order represents a step change in the business as it starts to scale up for larger size orders.

Pleasingly, the premium price to be received pursuant to the order debunks the myth that graphene is expensive. The productivity benefits and material performance improvements experienced when PureGRAPHTM is added to materials more than compensate for the cost of the graphene, and it underpins the pricing strategy employed by First Graphene.

As previously reported (see article below) FGR is working closely with newGen Group to provide performance enhancement to their existing products with the addition of PureGRAPH™ graphene products. newGen Group has recently introduced a branded Amour-GRAPH™ product range of wear liners for bucket wheel, pipe spools and conveyor heavy equipment applications.


In a recent development, the Company was pleased to confirm further progress in its R&D collaboration with newGen Group. newGen is supplying a wear lining system for dryer chute applications to a large Australian cement producer in their Perth facility. It is a leading supplier of cement and lime to the Western Australia’s mining, agriculture and construction industries.

Each 50m2 liner will contain 10 to 12kg of PureGRAPH™ and is a further significant step in the adoption of First Graphene products into large industrial applications. PureGRAPH™ has been demonstrated to provide up to 37% improved tensile strength and improve abrasion resistance by 100% to 500% in high performance polyurethanes.

newGen has now issued a purchase order for 2,000kg (2 tonnes) of PureGRAPHTM to be drawn down as it wins tenders during 2019. There is one final regulatory approval required before the first sale is effected, being the registration of graphene by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) in Australia.

Similarly, the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) needs to be completed for sales in the European Union. These registration processes are currently underway and they are not expected to provide any meaningful delays.

The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) registration process is required for all chemicals used in industry in Australia. Within the European Union REACH registration is required if an organisation plans to sell greater than one tonne of a chemical within the EU or United Kingdom. First Graphene Ltd has already joined the consortium which is registering graphene as a new chemical. The consortium consists of three graphene organisations, one from China, one from Canada and one European producer.

Managing Director, Craig McGuckin, stated: “We said that we were the world’s leading graphene company, and we are now proving it with this sales order – the start of many. We do not believe there is another company which could deliver both the volume and the consistent quality this order requires. We are now entering an exciting growth phase as industries all around the world are starting to look at ways in which they can use graphene to improve their products and lower their operating costs”.

newGen Managing Director, Ben Walker stated: “My Company has had considerable interest generated for our new Armour-GRAPH™ range since we started developing PureGRAPH enhanced products with First Graphene. The graphene enhanced resin was added seamlessly into our mixing procedure. It is not labour intensive or complicated with regard to our standard operating practices.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE - 26 OCT 2018

FGR is working closely with a number of companies to demonstrate performance enhancement of their products through the addition of its PureGRAPH™ graphene products. In this case, the wear-life of mining equipment can be extended with the inclusion of PureGRAPH™ graphene into protective polymer linings.

The rapid progress made with these polymer linings was enabled by the high consistency of PureGRAPH™ products and the ease of dispersion into the polymer resin. The know-how being acquired is readily transferable to a vast range of other polymer products, in many industries. The suitability of the PureGRAPH™ is particularly pleasing as it confirms this is a commercially superior product.

It is expected that, as manufacturing companies start to witness the improvements that graphene can offer, there will be an acceleration of demand for supplies of PureGRAPH™. First Graphene is well-positioned to satisfy the demand as it enters an exciting growth phase.

  • PureGRAPH™ graphene has been successfully incorporated into a high volume application in the mining sector. 
  • A full scale mining reclaimer bucket was cast for an on-site trial with a multi-national mining company 
  • Test work has confirmed PureGRAPH™ readily disperses into the polymer resin used 
  • Further bucket linings will be cast and sold for use in northern Australia with a multi-national mining group 
  • PureGRAPH™ enhanced polymer liners for a range of associated applications will also be trialled 
  • This success with a graphene-enhanced bucket lining will open an important growth curve for graphene enhanced rubbers and composites
  • There are 12 buckets on the wheel for the machine these buckets are destined for, each with a capacity is 2.2 m3. The reclaimer has a nominal machine capacity is 12,000 tph and maximum capacity is 14,500 tph in bauxite.

 

newGen 

 

As announced in June 2018 FGR is working with newGen Group on equipment used in the mining industry to improve polyurethane liners to protect them from excessive abrasion and increase their useful life. 

 

Since then FGR and newGen have conducted various tests using PureGRAPH™ in polyurethane to determine the best suited PureGRAPH™ product and the optimum quantity to be added. These tests have demonstrated that the PureGRAPH™ product provides significantly increased flexural strength to the base polyurethane product. 

 

newGen have now cast a liner for a Sandvik reclaimer bucket using PureGRAPH™ 20 and are now working with FGR on the use of a PureGRAPH™ enhance polyurethane in other high volume mining applications in the iron ore industry where newGen are preferred supplier.

 

FGR Managing Director, Craig McGuckin, stated: “Achieving the creation of this bucket liner for a multi-national end user is a credit to Ben’s foresight and the team at FGR.” 

 

newGen’s Ben Walker stated: “We are pleased to be at the forefront of graphene use in mining materials. It has been excellent to work with the calibre of people at First Graphene in this march towards supplying our valued clients with ground breaking, high performance materials.”

 

About First Graphene Ltd (ASX: FGR) 

First Graphene has established a commercial graphene production facility for the bulk scale manufacture of graphene at competitive prices. The Company continues to develop graphene related intellectual property from which it intends to generate licence and royalty payments. 

 

The Company has collaboration arrangements with four universities and is at the cutting edge of graphene and 2D related material developments. Most recently First Graphene has become a Tier 1 participant in the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre (GEIC) of the University of Manchester. First Graphene is working with numerous industry partners for the commercialisation of graphene and is building a sales book with these industry partners. 

 

PureGRAPH™ Range of Products 

The PureGRAPH™ range of products were released by FGR in September 2018, in conjunction with a detailed Product Information Sheet. PureGRAPH™ graphene powders are available with lateral platelet sizes of 20μm, 10μm and 5μm. The products are characterised by their low defect level and high aspect ratio. 

 

About Graphene 

Graphene, the well-publicised and now famous two-dimensional carbon allotrope, is as versatile a material as any discovered on Earth. Its amazing properties as the lightest and strongest material, compared with its ability to conduct heat and electricity better than anything else, means it can be integrated into a huge number of applications. Initially this will mean graphene is used to help improve the performance and efficiency of current materials and substances, but in the future, it will also be developed in conjunction with other two-dimensional (2D) crystals to create some even more amazing compounds to suit an even wider range of applications. 

 

One area of research which is being very highly studied is energy storage. Currently, scientists are working on enhancing the capabilities of lithium ion batteries (by incorporating graphene as an anode) to offer much higher storage capacities with much better longevity and charge rate. Also, graphene is being studied and developed to be used in the manufacture of supercapacitors which can be charged very quickly, yet also be able to store a large amount of electricity. 

 

For further information, please contact 

Craig McGuckin

Managing Director  

First Graphene Limited  

+ 611300 660 448

Tags:  FGR  First Graphene  graphene enhanced polymer  Mining  newGen  Polymer 

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