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A new industry needs to set standards; without

them you have no level playing field. What

chance has a buyer looking at graphene offered

at 199 US dollars/kg (~€179) against

€2,000/kg? How does the buyer know which

graphene is suited to the specific need? The

answer is both should be suitable, but in

different applications – one size does not fit all.

The nanomaterials market can be enhanced

and the hype removed by ensuring users get a

standard definition of what is meant by

graphene, GNPs, graphite, super graphite, few

layered graphene, etc. This will make

comparisons easier and remove confusion and

misconceptions in the marketplace.

Interestingly, the use of a nano-exchange

mechanism also has a role in standardisation,

producing a scale of products and respective

properties. It also brings the nanosellers into

contact with the organisations seeking

particular materials. The graphene market for

R&D materials has now been active for several

years, and there are web-based resellers such

as ‘Graphene Supermarket’, ‘Cheap Tubes’ and

‘Goodfellow’ who supply the research houses

and academic world with a range of

nanomaterials. This enables the necessary

research to be undertaken in advance of

focused projects for defined applications.

The graphene industry is still in its infancy: the

players in the market are numerous and on a

global scale. There are many research and

manufacturing organisations investing and

patenting technologies, but most are in

prototyping and product development stages.

Test results suggest that functionalisation is key

to the successful commercialisation of

graphene-enhanced products, and the

graphene industry has now acknowledged that

dispersion is necessary for the effective

adoption of graphene.


very day there are new announcements of the amazing properties

of graphene: over 100 times stronger than steel, more conductive

than copper and impermeable to gaseous and liquid ingress, yet

totally flexible and with a staggering surface area in excess of 2,600m²

per gram.

We see a huge range of examples of its use – from the latest bendable

phone to a touchscreen that is not coated on glass and so does not

shatter, from a 3D printed conductive object to condoms. The list is

endless and, consequently, the potential market almost unlimited. As

such, industry sees it as a value-added proposition making products

‘faster, better and cheaper’.

The interest in graphene, as with nanomaterials in general, is based

around its properties and their ability to change the world we live in today

– but can they? What is the commercial reality of delivering this new

nanomaterial and what is its relevance to real products?

The challenge

The properties of graphene can be realised, but key to this is the ability

to properly surface engineer the graphene nanomaterials so that they

can covalently bond with the target matrix in a way that ensures

homogeneous dispersion. Dispersion is the real key to delivering excellent

conductivity, thermal heat transfer, barrier films that outperform current

offerings, a workable transparent conductive film, an ink based on

graphene, and carbons that could replace some metallic offerings; the

list goes on.

The current use of chemical and thermal shocking in the conversion of

powdered graphite into graphene nanoplatelets (GNP) has scalability, but

creates defects and is limited by the chemical groups available in the

intercalating acids. Leaving aside the environmental aspects, these

powders can be produced relatively cheaply until there is a need to add a

dispersing agent or some other process to achieve the desired dispersion.

Whilst this has been met with some success, the treatment has cost

implications and damages the very structure you are trying to disperse into

a material. Additionally, the surface chemical the treatment leaves on the

graphene is limited to the groups inherent to the available acids.

Customers will realistically only move to a new material if the

performance is as good as or better than the current one and is cheaper;

if it involves significant new capital costs, then that will be a barrier. There

is no reason why effective dispersion cannot happen in existing

production and then you have the key to commercialisation.

Homogeneous dispersion enhances properties, and that adds value to

the producer of both the raw material and the end products.


H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L



Exploiting the potential

With fast-paced research developments,

Ray Gibbs,

of Haydale Graphene,

discusses the current challenges in the advancement of this nanomaterial and

realising its full potential

Ray Gibbs