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Graphene & 2D Materials: Highlighted Trends and Successful Application Examples.

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Hello everyone! I am Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, CEO of TechBlick ( I have tracked and analysed the graphene, carbon nanotube, and 2D material industry for over ten years now. I have published the leading market reports, presented at all the key conferences, and carried out numerous consulting and investment due diligence studies. I have seen all the ups and downs in this period and closely engaged with all the key players worldwide. In this article, I will offer a tour of some interesting developments in the field which demonstrate how the industry is maturing and finding diverse applications. I will cover graphene applications in heat spreaders, anti-corrosion coatings, large-area heating, pipes from recycled HDPE, R2R supercapacitor electrodes, Si anode batteries, automotive, fuel markers, biosensors, Li ion battery electrodes, ultra-filtration, composites, e-textiles, and beyond.

At TechBlick, each year we offer more than 350 hand-picked talks on emerging technologies. With a single annual pass, you can participate in all our LIVE events online, truly mingle and network with the community online, and participate in our masterclasses. See how our networking and virtual mingling works here.

We have assembled the best speaker line-up yet for our next LIVE conference on 14-15 April 2021, covering Graphene, Nanocarbons, and 2D Materials. Our programme brings together prominent end users, major producers, and promising start-ups. features speakers such as LG Electronics, ABB, Fiat, Tata Steel, Gerdau, Tungshu, Thales, Inov-8, Varta, ASML, BASF, Cabot, IP Group, Raymor/PPG, NanoXplore, Qenos, Avanzare, Sixth Element, Cardea Bio, VTT, Grapheal, and many others.

You can see the full agenda here You can buy your annual pass for just 400 Euros per year using the 20% discount code Graph20 until 3 April 2021. If you would like to discuss this event or TechBlick event series in general please book a meeting with me (Khasha) here.


Speakers Include:


Recyclability and Sustainability

The data below is from NanoXplore, one of our exhibitors and sponsors. They are based in Montreal, Canada, and are global leaders in terms of scale up, having commissioned a 4,000 tpa production capacity with the aim to further expand to 10,000 tpa. The right chart below compares the stiffness of virgin HDPE, a common material for industrial fluid and gas pipes, with a HDPE consisting of 55% recycled material together with 1wt% of NanoXplore's graphene additives. It shows that the stiffness is unchanged. The left chart shows that the recycled material with 1wt% of graphene additives can retain its mechanical properties after 3000 hours of UV and weathering exposure. Other KPIs are also either improved or remain unchanged. The data can facilitate the uptake of recycled HDPE in pipes. Given the sheer size of the market, even at 1wt% loading, this can translate into a huge volume application. To hear the latest from NanXplore and to mingle and network with their team join our TechBlick event on Graphene, Nanocarbons, and 2D Materials on 14-15 April 2021.

The green credentials of graphene go ever further. In general, increasing awareness of circular economy will deeply impact the requirements for future additives and functional fillers in polymer composites. BASF, one of our keynote presenters, will argue that graphene fits the future requirements as it “does not introduce foreign elements into the polymer material stream and comes with much less negative impact on processability and/or mechanics of the polymer compared to other functional fillers” This trend towards green graphene is manifest in graphene start-ups too. One good example is Bright Day Graphene AB. They are seeking to develop and later scale-up a graphene production process that is based on biomass. Join the TechBlick community for 400 Euros per year (deadline: 3 April 2021) to hear from and mingle with BASF, NanoXplore, and Bright Day Graphene.


Heating and Thermal Management

Graphene has excellent thermal properties. In fact, Huawei has adopted rGO based heat spreader films in its flagship phones (see left image below). Sixth Element, from China and Huawei's material supplier, tells us that “currently this application consumes several hundred tons of graphene per year, still growing”. This is possibly the largest bulk graphene application worldwide and is basically produced and consumed in China. The chart on right below, also from Sixth Element, shows how rGO heat spreader sheet differentiates against pyrolytic graphite sheets (PGS). In particular, thermal conductivity of the commonplace PGS drops as the thickness grows, whereas the rGO sheet reaches a stable 1200 W/mK even at large thickness levels. Graphene in heat dissipation can have many other use cases. In particular, it can be used as a filler in thermal interface materials or be vertically aligned to offer excellent anisotropic z-axis thermal conductivity.

Graphene is also used commercially in heating applications. The examples below are all from Shaanxi Huaqing Yifeng New Material, a Chinese company who will present at our upcoming LIVE conference on 14-15 April 2021. The left image is a R2R heating film which is waterproof and flame retardant. It is vacuum packaged with a service life of 50 years. The middle and right images are large-area printed heating films placed, respectively, behind a carpet and a painting. These are examples of large-area graphene applications combining R2R printing and graphene. Join TechBlick to hear the latest and to network and mingle with the community in our virtual networking lounge. Uniquely, our upcoming event on Graphene, Nanocarbons, and 2D Materials features prominent speakers from China including Tungshu, Sixth Element, Hangzhou Gaoxi, Shaanxi Huaqing, Leader Nano, Xi'an Tang Dynasty Huaqing, and beyond.


Nanocarbons in Composites

One recent success story is the adoption of graphene in sport shoes by Inov-8 in collaboration with the Graphene Centre at the University of Manchester. Initially graphene was used in the outsole rubber, demonstrating some 50% increase in strength and elasticity vs. traditional outsoles. As of a few weeks ago, graphene is now also added to the underfoot foam. The world of additives is never stationary. The drive towards achieving more-for-more, meaning higher performance with a lower amount of additives is always in full swing. Now, Cabot Corp has launched very promising nanocarbon additives. Cabot's latest results are shown below. The right image shows how these nanocarbons (CNS) outperform carbon black and multi-walled CNTs, achieving lower resistivity in polycarbonates at a lower loading. The left image shows how these carbon nanostructures improve shielding effectiveness of polycarbonates at a lower or same loading. Join TechBlick LIVE (online) events to hear the latest from Inov-8, Cabot Corp, and University of Manchester. You can also mingle with the innovation community all-year-around. See how the event platform works here.


Fuel Tagging for Authentication

A perhaps surprising application for graphene is in liquid level tagging. Quantag (from Istanbul) has developed graphene quantum dots which can be used as fuel markers to authentic the source and brand of the fuel (see below). In 2021, Quantag, one of TechBlick presenters, successfully produced 500Kg of graphene quantum dots to protect more than 4 million tonnes of fuel. Quantag offers a full solution including a novel sensor. The full system authenticates fuel on-site with high accuracy and sensitivity, enabling oil companies to have an all-in-one solution for their fuel marking operations.


Carbon Nanomembranes (CNMs) are a technological equivalent to the highly efficient biological filtration membranes found in nature. As shown below (left), water transport through CNMs is orders of magnitude faster than in conventional polymeric membranes combined with extraordinary rejection rates. CNM Technologies, one of our presenters, has developed a CNM-composite membrane maintaining most of the performance of the nanometer-thin CNM. These CNM-composite membranes enable new applications in low/no-pressure driven water treatment processes in growing markets such as ultrapure water for labs, pharma, and semiconductor industry and beyond. The size of membranes has expanded in the past few years but there is a need for further development in this front. Note that other 2D materials can also act as membranes. Molymem, a spin-off from the University of Manchester has also spent five years developing MoS2 nanomembrane sheets. The left images show these nanomembranes (the inset shows the small size at the 2017). In as early as 2017, they demonstrated a 5µm membrane composed of functionalized exfoliated MoS2, which was able to reject 99% of ions in seawater whilst, they claimed, maintaining water fluxes significantly higher (~5 times) than those reported for graphene oxide membranes. Here too, the technical challenge is to scale up the size of the membranes, improve endurance under pressure, and drive down cost.

Graphene can also add value in air filteration. LIGC (Isreal) produces a graphene conductive mesh atop polymer substrates. This is made by exposing PI to CO2 laser. The graphene mesh then enables heating, electrocuting and neutralizing organic particulates and pathogens at higher efficiency rates compared to carbon black, it is claimed. Join the highly interactive LIVE TechBlick conference on Graphene and 2D Material Applications and Commercialization (14-15 April 2021) to hear the latest from all these firms and to mingle with the speakers and other graphene and 2D material community.


Graphene in Electronic Textiles

Grafen AB is developing digital textile interface. As shown below (right), they add graphene without binders, glue, or polymers to the fabric. These graphene flakes ‘wrap around the fibers forming the skin'. By adding these special graphene flakes, they create unique conductive structures inside the fabric. The conductive fabric is then be used to apply simulation to the body or conduct heat, or continuously measure ECG, EDA or other signals. Grafen AB and other firms active in e-textiles such as Hangzhou Gaoxi Technology will present at the upcoming TechBlick conference.

Graphene in Supercapacitors

At the TechBlick conference, we highlight one interesting development by Thales with excellent results. Here, the electrodes are produced by spray-gun deposition of mixture of RGO/CNTs on aluminium substrates (see below). Presently, Thales is transferring the process to Nawa Technologies for roll-to-roll production and final packaging of the devices. At the upcoming TechBlick conference, Thales will show how this was possible and the last developments.

Graphene in Si anode batteries

Silicon offers exceptional high volumetric and gravimetric lithium storage capabilities as well as low charging/discharging potentials. However, this high storage capability is accompanied with high volume changes during lithium insertion/extraction, which causes a rapid decay in dimensional stability of the host material Varta Micro Innovation, one of the TechBlick speakers, will show how graphene offers a highly conductive and mechanically stable matrix that can suppress or buffer this large volume expansion. Using its novel composition, it can increase capacity of Li-ion batteries by 30%.

Raymor and PPG industries will also show how their industrial-scale plasma-derived graphene and their unique formulations can play a vital role in Si anode batteries. Indeed, they are supplying the base material in NanoGraf's (formerly SiNode) Si-anode battery.

Join TechBlick LIVE (online) events to hear the latest from Varta, Raymor, and PPG Industries. You can also mingle with the innovation community all-year-around. See how the event platform works here


R2R CVD graphene scale up

LG Electronics has scaled up the production of R2R CVD. They started research in 2012 and commercially launched in 2019. They can CVD grow graphene on 400mm Cu films at rate of 60m per hour (left). They can also process 4-6inch Si wafer substrates. Overall, their capacity is some 28,800 sqm/year. To optimize the process and offer excellent quality control, they have built a database of 138 parameters. General Graphene Corp has raised $20M to scale up and commercialize atmospheric CVD graphene. It can achieve up to 100k sqm/year in its R2R CVD graphene production (right image) and is targeting, amongst others, application in the battery space. Here, its data shows that CVD graphene atop graphite coated electrodes can dramatically improve longevity of batteries. It now must prove that this added value is worth the additional cost and complexity. To hear the latest and meet and mingle with LG Electronics and General Graphene Corp please join the TechBlick community.

R2R CVD graphene in Li ion batteries

Electrification of transport is massively increasing demand for batteries. Li ion is of course the main battery technology. One pain point with Li ion batteries is the loss of dishcarge capacity at high discharge rates or after multiple charge/discharge cycles. R2R CVD graphene may offer a suitable solution. The results below is from General Graphene Corp. Here, CVD graphene sits between an Al foil and a coated graphite electrode. The role of the CVD graphene is as a protector, keeping the electrode composition compact even as the battery goes through many charge-discharge rates at high C-rates. The results are promising. It shows that the battery with a 4-layer CVD graphene can far better retains its dicharge rate compared to a curent collector including only a conductive primer. This is an interesting application. The challenge, of course, is to scale this up and to offer it at the right price point for the battery industry, which is always driving down $/kWh.

Anti-Corrosion Coatings

Anti-corrosion coating is emerging as one of the main applications of graphene coatings. At TechBlick, Gerdau, the largest south American steel producer, will showcase their latest results, developed in collaboration with GEIC@Manchester, on graphene-based anti-corrosion coatings. Unsurprisingly, Tata Steel is also working on graphene coatings for protecting nickel-electroplated steel from oxidization in battery casing application. Interestingly, Tata Steel is deploying R2R CVD graphene for this application. This is different as most other graphene-based anti-corrosion layers are based on solution coating. Some results are shown below. Here, the virgin nickel-plated steel (image a) is oxidized with (image c) and without (image b) CVD graphene coating. The unprotected material is fully oxidized with clear changes in the microstructure. To hear the latest and meet and mingle with Tata Steel and Gerdau please join the TechBlick community.

Biosensing and electronic applications of CVD graphene

CVD graphene was, for long, confined to laboratory. It is however now emerging into the market. A prominent example is from Cardea Bio (formerly known as Nanomedical Diagnostics) who is commercialising CVD graphene FET based biosensors. Cardea Bio has taken the step to develop a packaged chip-integrated solution with good interfaces (see left image below), connecting biology to graphene FETs to electronic chips to ML-based software and finally to mobile phones and apps. This is leapfrog forward that acts as a configurable base technology. Similarly, VTT will present on its efforts to develop monolithic CMOS integration of the sensitive graphene sensors to provide quantitative on-chip bioanalysis with multiplexed bioassays (see right image below). VTT is part of a European ecosystem launching a 2D experimental pilot line (2D-EPL) that aims to integrate graphene and 2D material into semiconductor platforms. VTT's contract manufacturing services include graphene processing and CMOS integration on 100-200 mm wafer platforms, IC design for graphene sensors and printed graphene electronics and fabrics.

SIMIT institute in China has also demonstrated fantastic process control. It can produce 2”-8” monolayer single crystalline graphene grown on Cu film, CuNi alloy film, Ge. It can also provide polycrystalline graphene wafer directly grown on silicon oxide/Si without metal layer, which is an important milestones. Furthermore, it can fabricate h-BN thin film with thickness from one layer to multilayer up to 30 nm.

Grapheal (France) develops wearable and disposable biosensors enabling continuous monitoring and in-field diagnosis (see middle image below). The smart bandage is based on the integration of a monolayer graphene polycrystalline layer back-bonded onto a biocompatible polymer layer. The badge is diagnostic because it enables remote measurement of physical parameters to monitor wound evolutionn, and it is therapeutic because graphene functions as a growth matrix and because its conductivity enables the application of electrical pulses to accelerate healing. Graphenea has launched a graphene foundry system, addressing a major industry painpoint. In general, it has been difficult to develop graphene devices and applications as the lack of a foundry ecosystem had meant that the developers had to master everything from design to CVD growth to device design and manufacture. Graphenea can now grow, transfer, dice metallize, and encapsulate graphene devices with 5 μm feature sizes all under one roof.

As a final comment, graphene may also offer a roadmap towards 1nm technology node. The chart below is developed by ASML based on imec's research. It shows how sheets of 2D material may be essential in enabling scaling the transistor technology node to 1nm and beyond, thus sustaining the most important technology trend that has underpinned our modern life. To hear the latest and meet and mingle with Cardea Bio, Graphenea, VTT, Grapheal, SIMIT, and ASML please join the TechBlick community.


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