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
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 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.
I S S U E S E V E N
H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA Lwww.horizon2020projects.com
S P E C I A L F E AT U R E : M AT E R I A L S
Exploiting the potential
With fast-paced research developments,
of Haydale Graphene,
discusses the current challenges in the advancement of this nanomaterial and
realising its full potential