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Talga and Biomer sign Joint Development Agreement for Graphene in Thermoplastics

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Australian advanced materials technology company, Talga Resources Ltd (“Talga” or “the Company”) (ASX:TLG) announced it has signed a Joint Development Agreement (“JDA”) with Biomer Technology Ltd (“Biomer”), a UK based polymer manufacturing and technology company, to co-develop graphene-enhanced thermoplastics for potential commercialisation in the healthcare and coating markets.

This initiative is in the composites sector under Talga’s graphene commercialisation strategy.

Highlights of the JDA include:

  • Creation of new multifunctional thermoplastic polyurethanes incorporating Talga functionalised graphene (“Talphene®”) in Biomer polymers.

  • Includes terms for evaluation, five (5) years exclusive supply in the event of commercialisation of products and intellectual property ownership.

  • Commercialisation of successful products for targeted biomedical and coating applications can be facilitated through Biomer’s existing global-scale commercial clients.

    Under the terms of the JDA Biomer will design and synthesise thermoplastic polyurethanes (“TPU”) incorporating Talga’s graphene (“Talphene®”) products for evaluation in biomaterial (medical devices) and industrial coating (marine anti-fouling) amongst other applications.

    The incorporation of amounts of Talphene® into Biomer’s proprietary TPU is expected to improve a range of key performance characteristics including:

chemical resistance

mechanical strength

wear & abrasion resistance

biocompatibility/biofouling

surface finish

electrical conductivity

 

The Talphene® enhanced TPU will be evaluated alongside Biomer’s commercially available TPU and other polymers under development with Biomer’s global industrial partners.


Talga Managing Director Mark Thompson: “Talga is excited to enter this agreement with Biomer that provides an accelerated path to new polyurethane products and expanded commercial opportunities. Biomer has an extensive network of advanced polymer materials technologies experts and commercial/customer relationships that can be leveraged to accelerate Talphene® into the world of polyurethane products.

We look forward to working with Biomer through the JDA to incorporate Talphene® into Biomer products with a view to enhancing people’s lives through advanced biomedical healthcare products, reducing eco-impacts of ship coatings in the marine environment and improvements to many other polyurethane based products”.

Biomer Managing Director Simon Dixon: “Biomer are excited to work with Talga on the significant potential for graphene in our proprietary high performance polymers and the opportunities it presents for advancing both design and manufacturing in the biomedical and specialty industrial market sectors.

Understanding the technological capabilities for graphene is fundamental to unlocking the potential for this material. We look forward to working with Talga’s research team in Cambridge and its unique functionalised graphene formulations which, through the JDA, will provide the ideal platform to realise these opportunities.”

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Background and Agreement

Graphene is carbon and humans are carbon based. Thus graphene enhanced polymers have the potential to provide reduced implant rejection sensitivity and improve biocompatibility, more durable plastic components for joint and vascular replacements, and utilise graphene’s self- healing properties and electrical conductivity to enhance a host of biomedical applications. Inversely it may be engineered to have biocidal properties, providing a potential pathway to metal-free anti-foul marine coatings.

The market potential is significant with the existing thermoplastic polyurethane market size exceeding 21.7 million tonnes productsand total market value c.US$57.8 billionincluding, automotive, aerospace, coatings, healthcare products, and many other applications.

Preparation of functionalised formulations for incorporation with Biomer products and testing is planned to commence next month. Talga Technologies Limited (Cambridge, UK) will prepare and supply the Talphene® products and interface with Biomer staff to fulfil work programme outcomes and deliverables.

Under the JDA Talga and Biomer will co-fund R&D, material supply prototype development, manufacturing process development, and internal and external testing. Biomer’s target customers have also agreed to participate in product testing programs. Anticipating successful outcomes the companies have agreed in advance to incorporate commercial terms that include minimum 5 year exclusive supply of Talga graphene on jointly developed products, and terms of intellectual property rights. Other commercial terms including pricing are to be further agreed and specified during product development.

Tags:  Biomer  polymers  Talga  Thermoplastics 

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2018 Eli and Brit Harari Graphene Enterprise Award Winners

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The two teams based at The University of Manchester are seeking breakthroughs by using graphene in the treatment of brain cancer and to radically improve battery performance.

The Eli and Britt Harari Graphene Enterprise 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 related 2D materials.

The first prize of £50,000 was awarded to Honeycomb Biotechnology and its founders; Christopher Bullock, a Biomedical Engineer in the School of Health Sciences who is due to complete his PhD on developing novel graphene biomaterials this autumn, and Richard Fu, a NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow and Specialty Registrar in Neurosurgery based at the Manchester Centre for Clinical Neurosciences.

The team are seeking to develop a surgically implanted device using graphene electrodes to deliver targeted electrotherapy for the treatment of Glioblastoma Multiforme- a form of brain cancer. They hope that this technology can work in conjunction with other treatment modalities to one day turn fatal adult brain cancer into a manageable chronic condition.

Richard Fu said: “Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) remains a tragic and deadly disease. This award provides us with the opportunity and funding to further develop what is currently an exploratory treatment idea that could one day make a meaningful difference to the lives of patients”.

Christopher Bullock added: “We are very grateful to Eli and Britt Harari for their generosity and for the support of the University, which has enabled us to try and turn our ideas into something that makes a real difference”.

"Our commitment to the support of student entrepreneurship across the University has never been stronger and is a vital part of our approach to the commercialisation of research. The support provided by Eli Harari over the last four years has enabled new and exciting new ventures to be developed. It gives our winners the early-stage funding that is so vital to creating a significant business, while also contributing to health and social benefit. With support from our world-leading graphene research facilities I am sure that they are on the path to success!"

 

Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor

The runner-up, receiving £20,000, was Advanced Graphene Structures (AGS), founded by Richard Fields, Alex Bento and Edurne Redondo. Richard has a PhD in Materials Science and Edurne has a PhD in Chemistry, they are both currently research associates at the University; Alex is currently working as a freelance aerospace engineer.

Richard Fields said: “Many industries are interested in benefiting from the properties of graphene, but they are hindered by a lack of new processing tools and techniques, ones which could more effectively capture these beneficial properties. We intend to develop new tools and techniques which can constructively implement graphene (alongside other 2D/nanomaterials) into advanced energy storage devices and composite materials”.

The technology aims to radically improve the performance of composite materials and batteries, this will be achieved by providing control over the structure and orientation of 2D/nanomaterials used within them. An added benefit of the solution is rapid deployment; the team have identified a real technological opportunity, which can be readily added to existing manufacturing processes.

Graphene is the world’s first two-dimensional material, one million times thinner than a human hair, flexible, transparent and more conductive that copper.

No other material has the same breadth of superlatives that graphene boasts, making it an ideal material for countless applications.

The quality of the business proposals presented in this year’s finals was exceptionally high and Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester and one of the judges for this year’s competition said: “Our commitment to the support of student entrepreneurship across the University has never been stronger and is a vital part of our approach to the commercialisation of research. The support provided by Eli Harari over the last four years has enabled new and exciting new ventures to be developed. It gives our winners the early-stage funding that is so vital to creating a significant business, while also contributing to health and social benefit. With support from our world-leading graphene research facilities I am sure that they are on the path to success!”

The winners will also receive support from groups across the University, including the University’s new state-of-the-art R&D facility, the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), and its support infrastructure for entrepreneurs, the Manchester Enterprise Centre, UMIP and Graphene Enabled Systems; 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 the 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.

Advanced materials is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons - examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet. #ResearchBeacons

Source: University of Manchester

Tags:  Advanced Graphene Structures  AGS  Batt  Cancer  Eli and Brit Harari Graphene Enterprise Award  Graphene  Honeycomb Biotechnology  University of Manchester  UoM 

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Haydale Expands Elastomer Capability

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Thursday, August 16, 2018

 

Haydale, the global advanced materials group, has announced that it has completed the installation and commissioning of a two-roll lab mill at its site in Loughborough, UK. 

 

This new investment will allow Haydale to compound nanomaterials into a range of elastomers which will support customers interested in using nanomaterials in their elastomeric products for a range of property improvements, such as thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity and increased mechanical performance.

 

The new elastomer mixing capability sits alongside the current elastomer moulding and testing facilities that are already on site at Haydale in Loughborough, UK, thereby bringing in-house the facility for Haydale to serve customer requirements for nanomaterial enhanced elastomer development.

 

Areas Haydale is currently working on with elastomers are: 

  • Automotive tyres. 
  • Auto, rail and marine for antivibration mounts. 
  • Seals and gaskets. 
  • Medical devices. 
  • Latex gloves. 

Keith Broadbent, Haydale Managing Director Composites, said: “We are really pleased to be able to offer this additional capability from our Loughborough site and look forward to working more closely with our existing, and new, elastomer customers.” 

 

Ray Gibbs, Haydale CEO, said: “This market-led improvement to our facility shows how Haydale is responding to the needs of its customers.”

Tags:  2 roll mill  antivibration mounts  Auto  Automotive tyres  elastomer  gaskets  graphene  Handle  Latex gloves  marine  Medical devices  rail  Seals 

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World’s First Graphene Skinned Plane

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Monday, August 13, 2018

 

 

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) made an announcement about the recent unveiling of the world’s first graphene skinned plane at the internationally renowned Farnborough air show.

 

Haydale, (AIM: HAYD), the global advanced materials group, has supplied graphene enhanced prepreg material for Juno, a three-metre wide graphene-enhanced composite skinned aircraft, that was revealed as part of the ‘Futures Day’ at Farnborough Air Show 2018.

 

The prepreg material, developed by Haydale, has potential value for fuselage and wing surfaces in larger scale aero and space applications especially for the rapidly expanding drone market and, in the longer term, the commercial aerospace sector. By incorporating functionalised nanoparticles into epoxy resins, the electrical conductivity of fibre-reinforced composites has been significantly improved for lightning-strike protection, thereby achieving substantial weight saving and removing some manufacturing complexities. 

 

The Juno project, led by UCLAN, has been an ideal demonstration for the viability of the prepreg material for structural applications and the ability to manufacture components using traditional composite manufacturing methods. Further developments are underway to produce the next iteration of lightning strike protection materials based on these nano-carbon enhanced prepregs.

 

This technology also has performance benefits for a wide range of applications and industries including large offshore wind turbines, marine, oil and gas, and electronics and control systems.

 

Haydale worked with the aerospace engineering team at University of Central Lancashire, Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and the University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute to develop the unmanned aerial vehicle, that also includes graphene batteries and 3D printed parts.

 

Ray Gibbs, Haydale CEO, said: “We are delighted to be part of the project team. Juno has highlighted the capability and benefit of using graphene properly dispersed into composite materials to meet key issues faced by the market, such as reducing weight to increase range, defeating lightning strike and protecting aircraft skins against ice build-up.”

 

David Banks, Haydale Chairman, said: “The unveiling of this plane shows how the use of graphene can offer great benefit to the aerospace industry, highlighting the potential near term commercial impact of graphene within this significant market.”

Tags:  Aerospace  composite  functionalized graphene  Haydale  Juno  Prepreg  UCLAN  University of Central Lancashire 

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Long-Established Chemical Company Continues to See Graphene Demand Increase

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Wednesday, July 11, 2018

When we first spoke to William Blythe back in 2016,  we were trying to get a handle on how a 170-year-old specialty chemical company found itself involved as a major graphene producer. Now nearly two years later we got to visit with the company again to see what’s changed from since we last spoke.

For those of you who would like more regular updates on what William Blythe is doing and thinking about when it comes graphene, you can visit their blog. And while there you can order some material on the same site

 Q: When we spoke to you 18 months ago, William Blythe expected to boost graphene oxide production to the tonnage scale within the next 6-12 months from a lab production level of around 20Kg. Has that production capacity increase happened?

A: William Blythe has definitely seen an increase in demand for graphene oxide since we last spoke. We have been working on scale up of all three of our graphene oxide products, with significant investments made and planned to ensure we always stay ahead of our customers’ needs. As application development has been slower than originally predicted by our customers, we have been able to scale to an interim production capacity of about 200 kg pa.

Q: At the time we spoke last, William Blythe was investing heavily in R&D, focusing on innovation and product development. How has that program developed over the last 18 months?

A: William Blythe has continued building its R&D program and has added several projects since we last spoke. One significant area of investment is in the energy storage sector, with a commitment to spend £1m over the next 3 years in energy storage research. One of these projects is in collaboration with the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester and aims to develop novel anode materials. As a company, we are very committed to developing the materials needed to enable the exciting technologies needed for the future.

Q: Can you also address along these lines how your supply line has developed, i.e. what are the expectations of your customers in terms of batch-to-batch consistency?

A: William Blythe’s customers, across our whole product range, always require the highest level of batch-to-batch consistency. Our products are generally used in demanding applications, where the performance of the product could be hugely affected by small variations in either the chemical or physical properties of the materials we supply. We pride ourselves on offering consistently high-quality products. Both the quality and batch-to-batch consistency of our graphene oxide has been commended by several customers.

Q: Are you still supplying strictly graphene oxide or have you branched out to other graphene products, such as single-crystal monolayer graphene? Why have you chosen one product approach, or the other?

A: As we discussed previously, William Blythe is an inorganic specialty chemicals manufacturer. The chemical exfoliation route we use to synthesize our graphene oxide is very well aligned with our core capabilities, which means we are very well positioned to scale the process effectively and successfully.

Q: We discussed ad hoc industry standards for graphene last time we spoke. Have those become more formalized? And what is the state of graphene standardization across producers?

A: A lot of work is taking place on standardization of graphene materials, however the early standards are more focused on graphene as opposed to graphene oxide. While standards are now being written and the first standards are now published, there is still a need to get the wider market on board as terminology is not always being fully understood and adopted by those in the graphene community.

Q: A year-and-half ago, William Blythe expressed confidence that graphene "will be well established in the supply chain of several industries within the next 5 – 10 years”. Has anything occurred since that then enforces that belief, or perhaps you have become more cautious?

A: Based on the work we know of in this market, the forecast of graphene oxide being well established in some industries by 2026 is very realistic. William Blythe is, as you know, working on increasing production capacity of their graphene oxide to meet customer demands over the coming years. While some applications are commercializing right now, William Blythe is also working on several longer-term projects, we expect these applications to take several years to commercialize, but would still anticipate commercial volume demand in these areas before 2026.

Tags:  graphene oxide  graphene production  specialty chemicals 

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How Tech Transfer Offices Are Leading the Commercialization of Graphene

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Thursday, June 28, 2018

Of the thousands of research papers that have been published on graphene, and the similarly high number of graphene-related patents that have been filed, a small percentage will ever see the light of day from a commercialization or application perspective.

To address this “Valley of Death”—as some have termed the gap between the lab and the fab—there exists one of the few mechanisms established to help move research from the laboratory to commercial production: the University Technology Transfer Office (TTO). These institutions are charged with identifying commercially viable intellectual property (IP) held by their university and then connecting with qualified and interested commercial and financial partners.

While on the best of days developing lab projects into commercially viable IP is a challenge, for an emerging technology like graphene there is another layer of difficulty that needs to be addressed.

“Early on the mention of the material’s performance, attributes and excitement around it led to unrealistic expectations as to its state of development. Many expected to be able to invest in or adopt a technology which was close to market use, when in fact there is more science development and engineering required to address most opportunities, certainly the more sophisticated markets.Remember that it took aluminium and carbon fibre some 30 years to go from discovery to serious use.explained Clive Rowland, CEO of the University of Manchester’s innovation company, UMI3.

One of the biggest challenges faced by university TTOs is to accurately forecast or identify commercially viable opportunities. When a material is completely new, as with graphene, it becomes exponentially harder to get that prediction model to be accurate.

“Initially, many thought that graphene would be used in electronic applications (the new silicon) but there was – at that time - little appreciation that there is no band gap in graphene, meaning that there are few breakthrough uses until that issue has been solved,” explained Rowland. “The hype around the electronic applications and hundreds if not thousands of patents filed for this area distorted the picture.Most likely it will be other 2D materials, or a combination of graphene with them, that will be better suited to electronic (and many other) applications.”

The issues faced by university TTOs are not just about getting a handle on predicting the real application potential for a technology, but also working with outside commercial and financial partners. When it comes to graphene, this problem is magnified due to a general lack of understanding about the quality issues surrounding graphene.

Rowland explains that this lack of understanding has led to some unrealistic expectations about graphene from those outside the research community. “It has been difficult to manage these expectations at the University TTO level since the external community (investors and industry) are really looking for and expecting us to have a set of products to license, or around which we can establish start-ups.”

Far from licensing or the establishment of start-ups, the reality is that the invention disclosures are very early-stage where risk capital and/or industrial collaborations are needed to develop these technologies to some stage higher up the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale, according to Rowland.

Rowland believes that it is still too early to measure the tangible outcomes that the University of Manchester has achieved in the commercialization of graphene. However, he notes that Manchester had set up a graphene characterization and consulting company early in the process called 2D Tech, which was acquired by a British engineering company Versarien that has since developed it further into a product development company.

In addition, UMI3 has established a joint IP development program with a British engineering firm (Morgan Advanced Materials) to scale up its graphene production method, which involves the exfoliation of graphite. They have also set up a company (Atomic Mechanics) to make and sell graphene pressure sensor products. After having brought this work to the stage of one or two demonstrators, Atomic Mechanics is now attracting the interest of seed investors, according to Rowland.

A potential mistake that other university TTOs might be making is to apply the usual tech transfer techniques to it and expect it to work.

“Graphene cannot really go the normal route from lab to market without special attention given to it,” said Rowland. “We treat it more like a portfolio approach and aim to use our Background IP as a basis to attract industrial collaborators to work with us in developing applications in our specialist centers.” These centers are the National Graphene Institute and the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre

Even with the huge strides Manchester has made in establishing an infrastructure to support the commercialization of graphene, Rowland concedes that they cannot nor should do it alone. It’s part of a bigger picture to create a Manchester cluster of graphene active companies located close to the campus. Also they need to engage entrepreneurs who have been successful in marketing engineered products and building companies to collaborate in developing those inventions that have breakthrough potential—so-called platform technologies that sustain a successful independent business.

“To achieve this we have set up a dedicated team of people who work alongside the TTO (essentially part of the TTO) to accelerate these more challenging areas of science and engineering,” said Rowland. “This accelerator is called Graphene Enabled. It’s another important aspect of a grander strategic approach. The Graphene Enabled approach needs to sit alongside our industrial collaboration activity, so that we bring the whole community that we need to commercialize graphene onto our campus (investors, entrepreneurs, business people, industrialists) and in an appropriate environment, so that it does not conflict with or divert from the first-class basic science research going on in our academic schools.”

Another organization that plays an important role in the commercialization ecosystem is The Graphene Council, a neutral platform that welcomes all dedicated stakeholders from academia and the commercial sector according to Terrance Barkan CAE, Executive Director of The Graphene Council.

“The mission of The Graphene Council is to act as a catalyst for the sustainable commercialization of graphene. We achieve this in part by augmenting and supporting the efforts of University Technology Transfer Offices, connecting them with potential partners while also providing market intelligence to help better understand where commercial opportunities exist,” said Barkan.

“We spend a good part of our time helping to educate the end-user markets that will be the future customers for graphene enabled products and solutions. Because we have the largest community in the world of professionals, researchers, application developers and end users that have an interest in graphene, we are an ideal partner and connector.”

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(If you are working in a TTO and have an interest in graphene, be sure to download the attached file)

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Tags:  tech transfer offices  technology transfer  University of Manchester  university technology transfer office 

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2D Fluidics Pty Ltd created to launch the Vortex Fluidic Device (VFD)

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Friday, June 22, 2018

 

Advanced materials company, First Graphene Limited (“FGR” or “the Company”) (ASX: FGR) is pleased to announce the launch of its 50%-owned associate company, 2D Fluidics Pty Ltd, in collaboration with Flinders University’s newly named Flinders Institute for NanoScale Science and Technology

 

The initial objective of 2D Fluidics will be the commercialisation of the Vortex Fluidic Device (VFD), invented by the Flinders Institute for NanoScale Science and Technology’s Professor Colin Raston. The VFD enables new approaches to producing a wide range of materials such as graphene and sliced carbon nanotubes, with the bonus of not needing to use harsh or toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process (which is required for conventional graphene and shortened carbon nanotube production). 

 

This clean processing breakthrough will also greatly reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of manufacturing these new high quality super-strength carbon materials. The key intellectual property used by 2D Fluidics comprises two patents around the production of carbon nanomaterials, assigned by Flinders University. 

 

2D Fluidics will use the VFD to prepare these materials for commercial sales, which will be used in the plastics industry for applications requiring new composite materials, and by the electronics industry for circuits, supercapacitors and batteries, and for research laboratories around the world.

 

2D Fluidics will also manufacture the VFD, which is expected to become an in-demand state-of-the-art research and teaching tool for thousands of universities worldwide, and should be a strong revenue source for the new company. 

 

Managing Director, Craig McGuckin said “First Graphene is very pleased to be partnering Professor Raston and his team in 2D Fluidics, which promises to open an exciting growth path in the world of advanced materials production. Access to this remarkably versatile invention will complement FGRs position as the leading graphene company at the forefront of the graphene revolution.” 

 

Professor Colin Raston AO FAA, Professor of Clean Technology, Flinders Institute for NanoScale Science and Technology, Flinders University said “The VFD is a game changer for many applications across the sciences, engineering and medicine, and the commercialisation of the device will have a big impact in the research and teaching arena,” Nano-carbon materials can replace metals in many products, as a new paradigm in manufacturing, and the commercial availability of such materials by 2D Fluidics will make a big impact. It also has exciting possibilities in industry for low cost production where the processing is under continuous flow, which addresses scaling up - often a bottleneck issue in translating processes into industry.

Tags:  2D Fluidics  batteries  Carbon Nanotubes  circuits  Composites  electronics  First Graphene  Graphene  Plastics  research laboratories  supercapacitors  Vortex Fluidic Device (VFD) 

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Graphene Enables Sensitive HIV Sensor

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Tuesday, June 19, 2018

If you manage to get one of the big corporate research institutes to tell you what they’ve looking at  when it comes to graphene, the response is usually: sensors.

 

Now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have leveraged both graphene and DNA to produce a new sensor that increase the sensitivity of diagnostic devices used to monitor HIV

 

Just as in other uses of graphene for sensors, in this application graphene’s property of being only one-thick and highly conductive makes it extremely sensitive to detecting biological signals. The way the actual device exploits that property is that when DNA or RNA molecules bind to the graphene surface, they dramatically change the materials conductivity. 

 

This is not the first time that this basic design has been used as a biological sensor. However, in this case instead of using a single-stranded DNA that can only bind to the target DNA molecule, they developed what they have dubbed a “DNA hairpin” in which its curled structure opens up when the target molecule binds to it.

 

When it opens, another DNA molecule that has been added to the system kicks the target molecule out, making it possible to bind with many different sites on the graphene.


Tags:  DNA  HIV  Penn State  Sensors 

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Urbix Resources plans to build a graphite purification plant

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Tuesday, June 19, 2018
CleanTech Open Award winner (and Graphene Council Corporate member) Urbix Resources has announced plans to build a graphite purification plant. Ground will be broken in 2018 for plant completion in the second half of 2019.

Urbix executives are currently searching for the perfect site to build the proprietary facility the company is planning. They are looking at locations in Maricopa County in Arizona as well as possible sites in Nevada, California, and Hermosillo, Mexico.

Plans to move forward with the purification plant follows on the company’s Series A funding oversubscription which closed at $3.5 million dollars. “The investment community’s response to our plans has been enthusiastic,” says Vice-Chairman, Anthony J. Parkinson. “We have every reason to believe that enthusiasm will support the creation of the facility we’ve been envisioning.”

Urbix’s state-of-the-art facility will be purifying graphite through a proprietary process that does not use high temperature furnaces or hydrofluoric acid. Urbix will be supplying their plant with graphite from Mozambique with technology partner Battery Minerals (ASX-BAT) and from diverse global supply partners. The purification facility will process up to 2500 metric tonnes of 99.95%+ Cg graphite per month. Urbix’s phase two expansion will include the ability to make coated spherical graphite and advanced graphite derivatives including functionalized graphene nano platelets.

“What we are planning will be, upon completion, the top graphite purification plant in the United States,” says Urbix Executive Chairman, Nico Cuevas. “Eliminating industry standard processes makes it arguably the greenest graphite purification technique in the world.”

Urbix was recently tapped as one of five companies selected by the US Department of Energy to receive a technology development voucher for preliminary work oriented towards the advancements of ultra-high purity isotropic graphite for nuclear applications.

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Graphene Lays Foundation for Fast Charging High Capacity Li-ion Batteries

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Thursday, June 14, 2018

Prof. Dina Fattakhova-Rohlfing. (Image: FZ Juelich)

Graphene has been earmarked for energy storage applications for years. The fact that graphene is just surface area is very appealing to battery applications in which anodes and electrodes store energy in the material that covers them.

With lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries representing the most ubiquitous battery technology, with uses ranging from our smart phones to electric cars, increasing their storage capacity and shortening their charging times with graphene has been a big research push. 

Unfortunately, the prospects for graphene in energy storage have been stalled for years. This is in part due to the fact that while graphene is all surface area, in order to get anywhere near the kind of storage capacity of today’s activated carbon you need to layer graphene. The result after enough layering is you end up back with graphite, defeating the purpose of using graphene in the first place.

Now a team of German researchers has developed an approach for improving the anodes of Li-ion batteries that uses graphene in support of tin oxide nanoparticles.

"In principle, anodes based on tin dioxide can achieve much higher specific capacities, and therefore store more energy, than the carbon anodes currently being used. They have the ability to absorb more lithium ions," said Dian Fattakhova-Rohlfing, a researcher at Forschungszentrum Jülich research institute in Germain, in a press release. "Pure tin oxide, however, exhibits very weak cycle stability – the storage capability of the batteries steadily decreases and they can only be recharged a few times. The volume of the anode changes with each charging and discharging cycle, which leads to it crumbling."

The research described in the Wiley journal Advanced Functional Materials, uses graphene as a base layer in a hybrid nanocomposite in which the tin oxide nanoparticles enriched with antimony are layered on top of the graphene. The graphene provides structural stability to the nanocomposite material.

The combination of the tin oxide nanoparticle being enriched with antimony makes them extremely conductive, according to Fattakhova-Rohlfing. "This makes the anode much quicker, meaning that it can store one-and-a-half times more energy in just one minute than would be possible with conventional graphite anodes. It can even store three times more energy for the usual charging time of one hour."

The scientists found that in contrast to most batteries the high energy density did not have to come with very slow charging rates. Anybody who has a smartphone knows how long it takes to charge it to 100 percent.

"Such high energy densities were only previously achieved with low charging rates," says Fattakhova-Rohlfing. "Faster charging cycles always led to a quick reduction in capacity."

In contrast, the research found that their antimony-doped anodes retain 77 percent of their original capacity even after 1,000 cycles.

Because tin oxide is abundant and cheap, the scientists claim that the nanocomposite anodes can be produced in an easy and cost-effective way.

Fattakhova-Rohlfing added: "We hope that our development will pave the way for lithium-ion batteries with a significantly increased energy density and very short charging time."

Tags:  energy storage  Li-ion batteries  nanocomposites  nanoparticles 

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Graphene Council Champions Graphene Standards

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Graphene Council has consistently been spearheading the development of standards around graphene. This is for good reason.

Ask just about any company involved in bringing graphene and graphene-enabled products to market—as we have—and  you will quickly realize that all these organizations consider standardization of the material as a critical need for the wider adoption of graphene.

To further heighten awareness of this issue, The Graphene Council recently contributed an article  to The Graphene Technology Journal published by Springer and Nature in which we conducted an interview with Norbert Fabricius, who is one of the leading authorities on the development of standards around graphene.

Of course, we have also interviewed our own Executive Director, Terrance Barkan, on how the industry can collectively accelerate the development of standards for graphene.  

After all this effort, others are beginning to seek us out to learn more about the development of standards related to graphene. In an interview with SciTech Europa, Barkan provides an in-depth look at where standards for graphene are now and their importance going forward. 

In this interview, Barkan references the Global Graphene Industry Survey and Report produced by The Graphene Council that even two years after its publication remains the most extensive survey of producers and users of graphene. Barkan also references some of the recent groundbreaking work that the Council is doing in educating the industry into how graphene can best be used in composites and plastics.

It appears the word is getting out about the quality of the studies and projects the Council has undertaken over the years in leading industry efforts from standards to health and safety issues and promoting greater understanding of how graphene fits into the value chain of a range of industries

Tags:  composites  health and safety  plastics  Standards  survey 

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Graphene Supercharges Concrete, Altering the Construction Industry

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Graphene often gets discussed in gee-whiz applications like post-CMOS electronics, or solar cells  that can provide extremely high electricity-to-light conversion ratios.

However, it is perhaps in the more mundane aspects of our world that graphene is providing an important impact. The perfect example of this is graphene in concrete—a material that has been with us since the ancient Romans. In a feature at the beginning of the year, The Graphene Council reported on how the addition of graphene oxide is providing concrete with greater compressive and tensile strength

Now researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK have developed a technique for adding graphene to concrete that provides such a wide gamut of new and improved properties that some are predicting that it could revolutionize the construction industry. 

In research described in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, the University of Exeter researchers demonstrated that the addition of graphene to concrete could improve the material’s compressive strength by 149 percent. This compressive strength increase was accompanied with a 79 per cent increase in flexural strength, a 400 per cent decrease in water permeability, and improved electrical and thermal performance.

The key to this development is that it is completely compatible with today’s large-scale production of concrete. It simply involves suspending atomically thin graphene in water. The resulting process keeps costs low and results in very few defects in the end product

“This ground-breaking research is important as it can be applied to large-scale manufacturing and construction,” said Dimitar Dimov, a PhD student at the University of Exeter and the lead author of the research. “The industry has to be modernized by incorporating not only off-site manufacturing, but innovative new materials as well.”

What may grab the headlines beyond its improved properties is that the graphene-enabled concreted appeals to so-called green manufacturing.

“By including graphene we can reduce the amount of materials required to make concrete by around 50 per cent — leading to a significant reduction of 446 kilograms per ton of the carbon emissions,” said Monica Craciun, professor at Exeter and co-author of the research. “This unprecedented range of functionalities and properties uncovered are an important step in encouraging a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly construction industry worldwide.”

Tags:  CMOS  Concrete  construction  solar cells 

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Graphene Changes the Game in Optoelectronics

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Photons are faster than electrons. This has lead scientists to see if they can harness light (photons) to operate an integrated circuit. While this should result in faster circuits, there’s a hitch: wavelengths of light are much larger than the dimensions of today’s computer chips. The problem is that you simply can’t compress the wavelengths to the point where they work in these smaller chip-scale dimensions.

Scientists have been leveraging a new tool lately to shrink the wavelengths of light to fit into smaller dimensions: plasmonics. Plasmonics exploits the waves of electrons—known as plasmons—that are formed when photons strike a metallic structure. Graphene has played a large role in this emerging field because it has the properties of a metal—it’s a pure conductor of electrons.

The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona,  which has been a leader in this field for years, is now reporting they have taken the use of graphene for shrinking the wavelengths of light to a new level. In research described in the journal Science, ICFO researchers have managed to confine light down to a space one atom thick in dimension. This is certainly the smallest confinement ever achieved and may represent the ultimate level for confining light.

The way the researchers achieved this ultimate confinement was to use graphene along with one of its two-dimensional (2D) cousins: hexagonal boron nitride, which is an  insulator.

By using these 2D cousins together, the researchers created what’s known as van der Waals heterostructures in which monolayers of different 2D materials are by stacked on top of each other and held together by van der Waal forces to create materials with tailored electronic properties—like different band gaps for stopping and starting the flow of electrons. In this case, the layers included hexagonal boron nitride layered on top of the graphene and then involved adding an array of metallic rods on top of that. This structure had the graphene sandwiched between an insulator and a conductor. The graphene in this role served to guide the plasmons that formed when light struck the outer metallic rods.

In the experiment, the ICFO researchers sent infrared light through devices made from the van der Waal heterostructures to see how the plasmons propagated in between the outer metallic rods and the graphene.

To get down to the dimensions of one atom for confining the light, the researchers knew that they had to reduce the gap between the metal and the graphene. But the trick was to see if it was possible to reduce that gap without it leading to additional energy losses.

To their surprise, the ICFO researchers observed that even when a monolayer of hexagonal boron nitride was used as a spacer, the plasmons were still excited by the light, and could propagate freely while being confined to a channel of just on atom thick. They managed to switch this plasmon propagation on and off, simply by applying an electrical voltage, demonstrating the control of light guided in channels smaller than one nanometer of height.

The researchers believe that these results could to lead a new generation of optoelectronic devices that are just one nanometer thick. Down the road, this could lead to new devices such as ultra-small optical switches, detectors and sensors.

Tags:  graphene  Hexagonal boron nitride  optical switches  optoelectronics  plasmonics  sensors 

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Graphene-based Image Sensors Offer New Commerical Avenues

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) held annually in Barcelona, Spain is one of the largest technology conferences in the world. For the last three years, the MWC has been hosting the Graphene Pavilion that showcases the research institutes and technologies that they have developed under the EU’s Graphene Flagship

The Graphene Council visited the Graphene Pavilion last month in Barcelona and we came back with some videos. One of the anchor institutions at the Pavilion is The Institute of Photonics (ICFO)  located just outside of Barcelona. The Graphene Council has been speaking to Frank Koppens at ICFO since 2015 about how graphene was impacting photonics and optoelectronics. 

In our latest visit with them at MWC this year, we got an update on some of the ways they are applying their technologies to various technologies.

In the one shown in the video below, the researchers have developed ultraviolet (UV) sensors for protecting the wearers from overexposure to the sun.

While specifics of the underlying technology are not discussed in the video, it would appear to be based on the CMOS-based image sensor for UV-visible-infrared light that the ICFO developed based on a combination of graphene and quantum dots.

What the ICFO discovered six years ago was that while graphene generates an electron-hole pair for every single photon the material absorbs generates, it doesn’t really absorb that much light. To overcome this limitation of graphene, they combined it with quantum dots with the hybrid material being capable of absorbing 25 percent of the light falling on it. When you combine this new absorption capability with graphene’s ability to make every photon into an electron-hole pair, the potential for generating current became significant.

The ICFO has been proposing applications like this for this underlying technology for years, and producing working prototypes. At the MWC in 2016, the ICFO was exhibiting a heart rate monitor. In that device, when a finger is placed on the photodetector, the digit acts as an optical modulator, changing the amount of light hitting the photodetector as your heart beats and sends blood through your fingertip. This change in signal is what generates a pulse rate on the screen of the mobile device.

This same basic technology is at the heart of another technology ICFO was exhibiting this year (see video below) in which the graphene-based photodector can determine what kind of milk you are about to drink. This could conceivably be used by someone who has a lactose intolerance that could threaten their lives and by using the detector could determine if it was cow’s milk or soy milk, for instance.

While ICFO goes so far as to discuss prices for the devices, it’s not clear that ICFO is really committed to any of these technologies for its wide-spectrum CMOS graphene image sensor, or not. In the case of the heart monitor, the researchers claimed at the time it was really just intended to demonstrate the capabilities of the technology.

The long-range aim of the technology is to improve the design of these graphene-based image sensors to operate at a higher resolution and in a broader wavelength range. Once the camera is improved, the ICFO expects that will be used inside a smartphone or smart watch. In the meantime, these wearable technologies offer intriguing possibilities and maybe even a real commercial avenue for the technology.

Tags:  CMOS  graphene  ICFO  infrared  Mobile World Congress  photodetectors  quantum dots  ultraviolet 

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Graphene Membranes Enable a Novel Approach to Ubiquitous Photodetectors

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Monday, March 12, 2018

Image: University of Manchester

Back in January, scientists in Andre Geim’s research team at the University of Manchester reported that light could be used to enhance proton transport through graphene.  What this means is the possibility of an entirely new class of photodetectors, which are used in just about everything from high-speed optical communication networks to the remote control for your TV.

Needless to say, an entirely new class of photodetectors—based on proton transport as opposed to all current photodetectors today that are based on electron transport—is a pretty significant development. You add on to this the fact that the photodetectors made from graphene are 100,000 times more responsive than silicon and you have the basis of a transformative technology.

What regular readers of The Graphene Council may have missed earlier this month in an Executive Q&A with Jeffrey Draa, CEO of Grolltex, was that we got some indications in that interview that the technology being developed in Geim’s lab is ramping up for commercial applications.

Draa said in the interview: “…we’re also starting to get some inquiries for an application that actually Dr. Andre Geim at the University of Manchester, who, of course, was the discoverer of graphene was very passionate about. This is one of the very first applications that he thought futuristically would really make the world a better place, and that third application that we're starting to see on the horizon is graphene as a proton exchange membrane in a hydrogen fuel cell.”

Draa in this interview points to the initial applications that were discussed almost four years ago for this graphene-based proton exchange membrane. At the time, Geim had discovered that contrary to the prevailing wisdom that graphene was impermeable to all gas and liquids  it could, in fact, allow protons to pass through. This made scientists immediately conjure up the proton exchange membranes that are central to the functioning of fuel cells.

While there’s no reason to think that these graphene membranes won’t someday make for excellent proton exchange membranes for fuel cells, the problem is that fuel cells are not exactly ubiquitous. However, photodetectors certainly are ubiquitous, making for a much larger potential market for these graphene membranes.

Of course, it’s a pretty big step to make these graphene membranes go from being used for fuel cells to being used in photodetectors. So how did this application switch occur?

The University of Manchester scientists started with monolayer graphene decorated with platinum (Pt) nanoparticles. In operation, photons (light) strike the membrane and excite the electrons in the graphene around the Pt nanoparticles. This makes the electrons in the graphene become highly reactive to protons. This, in turn, induces the electrons to recombine with protons to form hydrogen molecules at the Pt nanoparticles. This process mimics the way in silicon-based photodetectors operate based on electron-hole recombination.

While there are similarities between the semiconductor approach to electron-hole recombination, the photon-proton effect used in this graphene membrane would represent a big departure from the previous approach and nobody is quite sure what the implications might be.

However, it is clear that this graphene membrane that Grolltex is working on with the scientists at Manchester may have a new set of applications that extends far beyond just typical membrane-based technologies.

Tags:  Andre Geim  fuel cells  membranes  photodetectors  University of Manchester 

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GrollTex Tackles Sensor Markets With High Quality Graphene

Posted By Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum, Thursday, March 1, 2018

  Jeffrey Draa, CEO, GROLLTEX

 

Last month, The Graphene Council's Executive Director, Terrance Barkan, and its Editor-in-Chief, Dexter Johnson, had the opportunity to have a talk with the CEO of California-based Grolltex Inc., Jeffrey Draa, about the company's business strategies in bringing graphene products to market and his views on graphene's future. Here is that conversation.

Could you tell us a little bit about the background of GrollTex. How did the company get started and how did you get involved with graphene? In particular, could you provide the history of Grolltex as a company?

Sure, so the name Grolltex is short for graphene rolling technologies and the brief history of the company is that my partner and co-founder and really the inventor, Dr. Alexander Zaretski, was a researcher at University of California San Diego.

He was involved with graphene growth and really got deep into graphene manufacturing techniques while he was at the University of California San Diego. One of the issues with this specific kind of graphene, as generated by chemical vapor deposition (CVD), of course, is the ‘transfer’ issue: How does one get single-layer graphene synthesized from copper off of the copper growth substrate and onto a substrate of interest without destroying the copper growth substrate? Of course, the current state-of-the art is to either acid etch the copper off of CVD graphene, or to use an electrolytic solution to sort of bubble the graphene off of the copper and have it rise to the top after a long period of time.

So both of these two processes, which had been state-of-the art, impact the copper in a very negative way so it's very expensive and not manufacturable. And my partner, Alexander, decided if graphene is going to go forward, there has to be a way to manufacture graphene and not destroy or impact that copper.  So he came up with a process to do that, a process that has a rolling schema where we reuse that growth copper over and over again. So that's kind of the background of the company. Alex had decided that he wanted, and felt so passionately about, this transfer technology and bringing it to graphene manufacturing that after completing his work as a researcher at UCSD, he broke out on his own and he asked me if I would be the business side of the company and he had the technical side. So that's kind of a brief background of Grolltex and how we came to be.

I understand you’re privately held company, correct?

We are, yes. We were funded roughly a year and a half ago with our seed funding and we've since about six months ago taken another round.

In terms of your graphene manufacturing that you just laid out, as you said you focused on producing single-layer graphene of the highest quality, so what are the markets that this product offering opens up to you? And what do you see as your strongest market now and do you see that market changing five years from now?

Well, as anybody that has knowledge of the graphene markets knows, single-layer high purity graphene like that synthesized via CVD has many theoretical use cases. We see on the short-term horizon three particular applications that are really kind of starting to command our attention. Those three are number one: sensing. So graphene given its electrical and mass properties makes an excellent sensor at a very, very small level. So sensing is number one.

We also are doing some work in the advanced solar cell arena and we have a grant from the California Energy Commission where we're working on a two-sided solar cell where graphene not only plays the part of barrier material but it's also the electrode material. So that's really exciting.

And for number three we’re also starting to get some inquiries for an application that actually Dr. Andre Geim at the University of Manchester, who, of course, was the discoverer of graphene was very passionate about. This is one of the very first applications that he thought futuristically would really make the world a better place, and that third application that we're starting to see on the horizon is graphene as a proton exchange membrane in a hydrogen fuel cell.

So those are kind of the three leading candidates we see right now. We’re judging that by some initial business that we’re getting in those areas.

You were discussing a number of applications you are pursing, including sensors. On your website you talk about enabling sensors that could be used for the Internet of Things. Can you explain why you see graphene playing such an important role in the development Internet of Things?

I’ll speak a little about graphene as a sensor material. When you combine the electrical conductivity properties along with the fact that graphene is one atom thick, you've got the potential for a sensor that could take us into the future for the next hundred years. We have patents around some designs of graphene-based sensing materials that are so sensitive that, for example, in the biotech world we had some bioengineering folks at Stanford use our sensor to sense the ability of individual heart cells to contract. Currently there only exists a different kind of test that can only count the number of contractions, but our sensor is so sensitive that it picks up the strength of contraction of the individual heart cell when it beats and it's a very robust signal; there's no mistaking it. So that's just one example of the potential of graphene as a sensor and we're seeing good activity there.

What is consistently your biggest challenge when you're talking to potential customers and convincing them how to use your product? Are they worried about pricing of graphene, the quality of product, a consistent supply chain? What stands out as one of the key issues that keeps coming up when you're speaking to these people?

So, I think the first consistent theme would surprise no one, and it's price. Almost any inquiry goes down along the lines of price, especially for a field like solar. If solar is implemented it’s going to need miles and miles of cheap graphene. Now the case of a sensor is not quite as price sensitive, but with regards to the big kind of large applications people think about like flexible displays and some of the other big idea changes for graphene those are really price sensitive. So price is the first one.

We don't get too many concerns with regards to the supply chain. Quality of product is sometimes discussed and that's partly because graphene is such a new field. But a lot of folks have what they are calling graphene and maybe debatably it is not. We don't necessarily have that problem because no one argues that single-layer graphene made by CVD is not graphene, so we don't have any discussion of the quality, but that sometimes can be an issue. So to kind of summarize, and get back to your main question, really price is the first thing that people want and that's the first hurdle you have to get over with almost everyone.

In addition to your graphene product, you're also producing hexagonal boron nitride (sometimes called white graphene). How do you see this material filling out your portfolio and what are the applications for this material that you're currently targeting and do you expect to develop other two-dimensional materials?

Hexagonal boron nitride is something we’re very excited about for several reasons. For the folks that aren't familiar with hexagonal boron nitride, you need to understand how it works with graphene. Graphene is, of course, the most conductive substance known at room temperature; it's on the order of seven times more conductive than copper depending on who you talk to. So as a conductor, graphene is really unparalleled. Now if you're going to design an electronic device of any type, of course, you worry about a conducting material because you can make the wire, the battery, and the switch with the conductive material. But the other thing you have to worry about is the insulating material. What are you going to use for the insulation for graphene? You have to separate the layers of the devices and hexagonal boron nitride is as good an electrical insulator as graphene is a conductor. And hexagonal boron nitride has a hexagonal pattern when it is synthesized in the proper way and that pattern lines up perfectly with the hexagonal lattice pattern of graphene so it also provides the strength benefit too. So it is really the ideal cousin of graphene. If you're an electronic designer, you're going to want both a conductor and an insulator and now we're going to be delivering both.

So that answers your first question and your second question, which was “are we going to develop other two dimensional materials?” As far as basic building blocks, we are going to rest on graphene and hexagonal boron nitride for a time because again those are your two basic building blocks: you need the insulation and the conducting but we also are developing other materials that go into specific devices. So, an example of this is the sensors I talked about that require some precious metal in small quantity—atomic quantity.  There are other materials involved when you go to make a specific device, but as far as the basic building blocks we're going to stand pat on graphene and hBN probably for a while.

What is your perspective on hybrid graphene materials? I am referring to this combination of a conductor and an insulator, or even a conductor with a semiconductor, and based on that will you look to develop those hybrids yourself or have your client make the next step in the value chain?

At the moment our clients are doing that work. Now I'm not going to say that we won't get into it, but we're going to be opportunistic with regard to that. With regard to opportunistic roads that we can go down today, our plate is pretty full, but there are several routes we can take. We are seeing folks in the semiconductor world, which is my background, starting to use other materials and creating devices out of some of those second and third level hybrids as you described and that's really exciting work. So we may get into some of that, but again we have a lot on our plate right now just based on what I described already.

I’d like to get your view of the overall industry over the short, middle and long term—five, ten, fifteen years expectations of graphene and the industry. And what is your strategy for best placing your company in the environment that you see developing?

With regard to our company, just saying the word “graphene” to a lot of people opens up so many thought patterns, channels and ideas that one of the things that's going to have to happen is the standards are going to need to be put in place fairly soon so that people can know what they're saying when they say “graphene”.

There's a lot of graphitic solutions out there and hybrids and powders and all kinds of things that debatably aren't graphene (of course, I would say that because of my company is involved in the area that there is no argument that it is pure graphene). But the point of that is we will need some standards and some nomenclature put in place to help take this whole field to the next level.

There's all kinds of great use cases for graphitic solutions that aren't graphene—great use cases, don't get me wrong—but let's make sure that we can assign proper nomenclature so people know what they are talking about and looking at. With regard to my company specifically, one of our challenges is picking our targets because again there are so many kinds of different opportunities. And when we first started out we decided we were going to have a two-phased approach to our business and we're doing the phase one part of that now.

Phase one for us is to make and sell graphene material as research material. So our core customer for our phase one is the university lab and commercial lab. So we sell graphene on copper substrates, on wafers, we sell graphene on customer specific substrates. You send us your substrate of interest and we’ll put our graphene on it and send it back to you. That phase one of our business that I just described to you is allowing us to pursue all kinds of exciting applications and some of them are helping us go in new directions. So, our challenge in the first five years I think is; number one stay on that phase-one path, get to profitability just as a business and number two really pick our paths carefully with regard to what are going to be the first real big market businesses out there in graphene—the ones that have paying customers.

So from a commercialization perspective, I think what you mention is that the majority, or is it basically all, of your customers are they in the testing or R&D category right now?

Yes, that’s fair to say. There's a population of big players in the industry that have their own graphene “skunkworks” that they're just not talking about. For example, I'm just going to throw some names around freely about big companies that we happen to know that do have graphene labs internally that it's just really very hush-hush. The reason we know this is because we know some of the people that have been hired out of other graphene places into these big companies. For example, Apple is one of them. They don't talk about it but they have a big graphene effort. Hewlett Packard is of one of those. Samsung is not bashful about their graphene efforts. So there are a lot of big companies where there is a lot of activity going on but nobody is talking about it so I think there's a lot more happening in graphene than people are even aware of because it’s not being leaked.

One of the things we’re very interested in doing as the Graphene Council is helping to act as a catalyst and accelerate commercialization.

One of the biggest obstacles to commercialization we’ve seen is simply the education of potential end users and consumers.  Can you talk a little bit about that? I mean as a company trying to educate potential clients one by one is a time consuming and expensive proposition.

What are the some of the other vertical markets or specific application areas—you mentioned sensors, of course? Are there some other specific areas where you think there's good commercial opportunity where we can help educate those populations?

The first one that comes to mind is the display market. So the display folks, of course, have been using indium tin oxide (ITO) as their core material for decades. ITO is really not a great material for them; it's expensive, it involves dirty mining and it is very prone to pollution when getting it out of the earth. It's also brittle which is why everyone’s display on their phone, their laptop, their television, all displays are brittle; they're like glass.

Graphene is actually a plug and play replacement for ITO and graphene enables flexible displays. So, the first big use case I can think of and that would be the most exciting and the most impactful for the most people is ITO replacement for making flexible displays.

But also I think it’s a use case that's pretty far down the road. It’s very price sensitive for one reason and number two there is a huge infrastructure with multiple large multinational corporations already in place and has been in place for decades with a big manufacturing schema, billions of dollars all lined up to process ITO, etc.. That's not going to shut off overnight and just accept a graphene replacement, right? So, from a price perspective and from an implementation perspective there are some challenges with ITO replacement, but I think that it strikes me as the kind of area where we can start hammering away at some of the existing thinking.

_

The Graphene Council thanks Jeffrey Draa, CEO of GROLLTEX for his time and unique insights into the developing market for graphene. 

 

Tags:  chemical vapor deposition  Hexagonal boron nitride  ITO  photovoltaics  sensors 

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First Graphene and Swinburne University Developing New battery Technology Using Graphene

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Advanced materials company, First Graphene Limited (“FGR” ) has announced an update on its work with the Swinburne University of Technology (SUT) on the development of a new energy storage technology using graphene, referring to their new product as the "BEST™ Battery".

 

While it is generally accepted that lithium-ion batteries are the state-of-the-art energy storage device available for consumer products today, they are not without their issues. In particular, there are examples where they have been the cause of fires in some instances. There is a vast number of companies and research institutions working to provide safer, more reliable and longer life batteries which utilise materials other than lithium-ion. Some of these involve the use of graphene. 

 

First Graphene, through its research and licencing agreements with Swinburne University of Technology, is pursuing a significantly different path to the development of the next generation of energy storage devices. Rather than trying to improve existing chemical battery technology, it is pioneering the field of advanced supercapacitors which have the potential to change the future for energy storage forever, particularly in handheld and consumer products.

 

Using the advanced qualities of graphene, First Graphene is developing the BEST™ Battery. This energy storage device promises to be chargeable in a fraction of the time and it will be fit for purpose for at least 10 times the life of existing batteries. It will be significantly safer and more environmentally friendly. All these improvements are made possible because the science relies on physics rather than chemical reactions, and on the remarkable properties of graphene materials. 

 

The table below provides an interesting comparison of key operating parameters of the BEST™ Battery alongside existing lithium-ion batteries and existing supercapacitors available in the market. What is particularly noteworthy is the 10x increase in the energy density expected for the BEST™ Battery, when compared with supercapacitors currently on sale in the market place, and the much lower cost per Wh. These features will provide great commercial advantages.

 

Table 1: Comparison between BEST™ Target development and existing Li Ion AA Batteries and an existing commercial Supercapacitor.

 

While the exact details of the design and construction of the BEST™ Battery must remain confidential for reasons of commercial security, First Graphene have disclosed the process of manufacturing the battery involves the use of lasers to create nanopores in graphene-based materials which achieve energy densities more than 10x as great as the pre-existing technology. Practical matters being addressed include the scaling up to the size of the battery from simple laboratory demonstrations of the effectiveness of the science, to devices which will be effective substitutes for batteries used in a wide range of hand held consumer products.

 

Recent Progress 

 

The first few months of the BEST™ Battery development project entailed the recruitment of additional, highly qualified research scientists and the acquisition of specialised equipment needed to prepare and manufacture the components of the BEST™ Battery.

 

Work has commenced on the improvement of many design aspects in order to optimise the configuration of the battery, with the ultimate objective being to develop a product suitable for mass scale production. At the same time, the methodology of making the battery is being subjected to continuous experimentation to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the materials and processes used in the device. In addition, the pilot production line for building the BEST™ Battery prototype has been set up, which enables the manufacturing of the BEST™ Battery to meet industrial standards. 

 

Swinburne recently reported that a single layer of the BEST™ Battery prototype that made by the pilot production line was able to sustain an LED globe for a period of 15-20 minutes with only a few seconds of initial charge. This is a very significant outcome, auguring well for the ultimate product which is intended to comprise much more than 100 stacked layers of graphene sheets. 

 

The Ragone plot below tracks the continuing improvements in the performance of the BEST™ Battery.

 


 

Figure 1: Ragone Plot demonstrating the progress of the BEST™ Battery development toward its goal

 

Graphene-Based Flexible Smart Watch 

 

The research being undertaken also involves the development of flexible batteries for smart watches which can be incorporated into the watchband itself. These will be light-weight and flexible, they will be able to be recharged in 1-2 minutes, and they will be fit for purpose for many tens of thousands of cycles. Information will be displayed not only on the watch face, but also on the band itself.

Figure 2: Graphene Watch – Flexible Smart Watch concept

 

Target Markets 

 

While it is intended that the BEST™ Battery development program will eventually provide suitable substitutes for many devices which currently used flat pack and cylindrical batteries, it will also provide batteries for new, innovative purposes. The thin profile of the Battery, and its flexibility, will make it suitable for use in clothing. It could also be integrated into smart watch bands, as an example, rather than having a solid block configuration. It is already showing excellent ability to convert kinetic energy into stored energy due to the speed at which it can charge i.e. simple movement of shaking can recharge the Battery. 

 

Commenting on these progress, FGR’s Managing Director Craig McGuckin said:

 

“The demonstration of full scale commerciality of the BEST™ Battery will take time, but so far the results have been very encouraging. The science has been proved at laboratory scale and now we are advancing many aspects of materials used and design processes leading to the development and optimisation of production methodology. We are very pleased that Swinburne University of Technology has advised us that the pilot production line is a world first. We are confident that the advantages offered by our technology will bring revolutionary changes to how we use batteries in the future, with added safety, efficiencies and flexibilities. The BEST™ Battery will be a serious game changer”.

 

 

Tags:  Battery  First Graphene  Li-ion  Supercapacitor  Swinburne University 

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TALGA People and News

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Thursday, February 15, 2018

TALGA has made a number of noteworthy announcements recently as the company continues to advances its graphene business globally including the appointment of Dr Anna Motta to head up the Company's global graphene product research and development.

Dr Motta’s appointment as Talga’s Research and Development Manager will see her based in Cambridge with responsibilities including management of the Company’s wholly owned UK subsidiary, Talga Technologies Limited and Talga’s graphene product research and development projects globally. In this she joins Talga’s internationally renowned team of graphene technologists Dr Siva Bohm, Dr Mallika Bohm and Dr Sai Shivareddy. Dr Motta will also oversee the delivery of
scale up product developments at Talga’s test facility in Germany.

Dr Motta is an experienced nanomaterial program and technology manager. Her career includes science and management roles in carbon nanomaterial programs at the Helsinki University of Technology and, since 2005, the University of Cambridge, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy (UK). Since 2014, Dr Motta has held the position of Project Manager and Technology Transfer Officer for the Cambridge Graphene Centre (“CGC”) where her responsibilities included oversight of academic and industry collaborations with more than 100 institutions and companies across a large portfolio of UK-EU graphene projects and funding programs. Dr Motta holds a Master of Science (Chemistry) and a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry.

Talga Managing Director Mark Thompson commented: “We are delighted to welcome Anna to our senior management team. She brings a wealth of graphene industry, technology and management experience to Talga at this time of rapid growth in our vertically integrated graphene
business. We also look forward to further successful collaborations with the Cambridge Graphene Centre via their new management appointments.”

Cambridge Graphene Centre Director, Prof Andrea Ferrari, commented: “We are pleased that Anna is moving to Talga, one of the industrial partners of the Cambridge Graphene Centre and Associate Member of the Graphene Flagship. We welcome the strengthening of the Cambridge-based Talga activities on graphene, adding to the value chain of Cambridge-based advanced technology companies working on graphene innovation in close partnership with the CGC. We are also pleased Anna will become a member of our industrial advisory board."

***

Talga Resources Ltd has also announced the execution of a non-binding memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) with Robert Bosch GmbH (“Bosch”) – a German based multinational engineering and electronics company.

Talga and Bosch have entered into the MOU to commence preparatory work regarding a development project in the field of utilising graphene in the synthesis of macroscopic structures. Talga Managing Director Mark Thompson commented, “Talga is excited to be working with Bosch on its graphene related applications. Bosch is a technology and manufacturing giant and we welcome formalisation of the relationship with them. Our intent is to leverage Talga’s strengths in graphene manufacture and dispersion technology toward success of the project”.

About Robert Bosch: Headquartered in Germany, Bosch is a privately owned engineering and
industrial technology conglomerate that is recognised as the world’s largest supplier of automotive components. Bosch has 450 subsidiaries and regional companies in over 60 countries with sales and service partners in roughly 150 countries. Bosch announced sales revenue in 2016 of ~€73.1 Billion and spent approximately €7 Billion on research and development over the same period.

***

Learn more from this insightful interview with Mark Thompson, CEO of Talga. 

 

Tags:  Bosch  CGC  Dr. Anna Motta  Motta  Talga 

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Concrete Graphene Applications, Literally!

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Advanced materials company, First Graphene Limited (ASX: FGR) is working with the University of Adelaide (UoA) on graphene for industrial building products.

Graphene in Concrete

Experiments have been conducted on the use of graphene oxide (GO) being added to concrete to improve both compressive and tensile strength. However the hydrophilic and high resistivity nature of GO limits its applications in things such as ‘smart’ cement.

Due to the high aspect ratio of nano-reinforcements such as graphene and carbon nanotubes, they have the ability to arrest crack propagation in concrete (by controlling the nano-sized cracks before they form micro-sized cracks) and hence greatly improve peak toughness, making them more effective than even conventional steel bar or fibre reinforcements.

Premium Concrete Products – Smart Cement

Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) operates at such a high-performance level that it competes with steel rather than regular concrete grades. Advantages include lower lead times compared to steel. UHPC can cost in excess of $500/tonne, with enhancements such as micro-reinforcements further increasing the price.

Due to the immense importance of compression strength and other factors such as blast, ballistic and earthquake resistance, additive premiums can be significant. UHPC is over an order of magnitude more expensive than regular concrete, but in an environment where material usage and weight are such essential considerations, it can actually be cheaper to use the more expensive grades in the long run, especially factoring in the reduced maintenance costs incurred by UHPC.

The UoA is testing FGR graphene, with the aim of making “smart cement” with conductive graphene flakes which may;

i. address the concerns of cracking and corrosion, and
ii. provide conductivity for better monitoring the health of concrete structures.

The first test results indicate the addition of just 0.03% standard graphene by weight is the optimal quantity of graphene from the test conducted to date, showing a 22 - 23 % increase in compressive and tensile strength, respectively. The addition of more standard graphene does not increase or decrease the strength of the concrete material when compared to the control in this test work.

Promising Results with Favourable Economics

This initial work has yielded very promising results with very small amounts of FGR graphene required to greatly increase the strength of the materials. Determining the optimum mixing methods and concentration to develop a consistent material will be the key to further developing this project.

The focus of the next stage of the work will be trialling other concentrations of graphene in concrete, specifically loading at 0.01% and 0.1% graphene, and optimisation of the mixing procedures. New methods of incorporating graphene into the concrete mixture will also be trialled.

The graphene provided by FGR will have a range of aspect ratios (smaller sheet sizes) and will be tested over the full range of concentrations. It is anticipated this material will better disperse within the concrete mixture and therefore provide further mechanical strength improvements.

The concrete admixtures market is estimated to be worth US$18.10bn by 2020. The drivers identified for the concrete admixtures demand are growing infrastructure requirements in developing economies, improving economics of construction, and shifting preferences of population towards urbanisation.

 

Tags:  Concrete  First Graphene  Graphene  University of Adelaide 

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Graphene Fire Retardant Demonstration

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Friday, December 15, 2017

Advanced materials company, First Graphene Limited (FGR), has provided an update on its development of the graphene based FireStop™ fire retardant material.

Development of the FireStop™ material is being conducted in conjunction with the University of Adelaide as part of the Company’s participation as a Tier 1 participant in the ARC Research Hub for Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation.

The video below shows the dramatic effectiveness of FireStop™when applied to simple wooden structures. Whereas the untreated structure on the left is totally consumed by fire, the structure treated with the FireStop™ retardant doesn’t even catch fire even after five minutes of trying to light it with a blow torch.

Given that fires generally start at specific ignition points, the ability of a graphene-based retardant to stop the ignition is a key feature of the product. The FireStop™ was applied in three coats, was applied by brush and was less than 500 μm thickness.

 

 Note: There is no sound for this video.


The relevant characteristic of graphene that this demonstration highlights is the very high thermal conductivity i.e. the ability to disburse heat away from the source. FGR is highly encouraged by the results of this simple demonstration, which augers well for subsequent, more advanced and scientifically controlled demonstrations that are being undertaken.

The University of Adelaide has now received a UL-941 system for use in its workshop. It is also installing an LOI instrument for the generation of scientific data. These instruments will enable an acceleration of the test work being conducted to optimise the FireStop™ product and application methodology.

[ UL 94, the Standard for Safety of Flammability of Plastic Materials for Parts in Devices and Appliances testing, is a plastics flammability standard released by Underwriters Laboratories of the United States. The standard determines the material’s tendency to either extinguish or spread the flame once the specimen has been ignited. UL-94 is now harmonized with IEC 60707, 60695-11-10 and 60695-11-20 and ISO 9772 and 9773. ]

Further tests will be conducted to increase the viscosity of the product while maintaining the fire-retardant performance. This work will be the precursor to submitting FireStop™ to FGR’s own testing to the relevant fire standards and to CSIRO for independent testing in Q1 2018. In the meantime, the Company is entering negotiations with potential industry partners for the commercialisation of FireStop™.

FGR is a Corporate Member of The Graphene Council, we congratulate them on their continued commercial development!

 

Tags:  Fire  Fire Retardant  FireStop  First Graphene 

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