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Company Advances Graphene Technology

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted February 19, 2013

Let’s prepare for the next big thing—graphene.

The EU recently earmarked 1 billion euros, or approximately $1.3 billion, to go toward graphene research and development. The U.K. has also made some significant investments intended to further graphene research in that country.

Ideally, graphene in its liquid phase and other industrial forms—thermal exfoliation, chemical vapor deposit, etc.—will be developed into a format suitable for mass reproduction. And new graphene patents are emerging practically every day.

Long story short, do not expect graphene to overturn your world tomorrow. It doesn’t work like that. Rather, what we should expect is for graphene to slowly infiltrate our world, taking over the role of other materials in discreet components across a wide spectrum of household appliances, electronics, and other products.

Thus, the IEEE’s Spectrum highlights Vorbeck Materials of Maryland, which has won a National Science Foundation grant to develop its graphene tech for the market.

Back in 2009, the company debuted its Vor-ink graphene-based conductive electronic ink at the Printed Electronics 2009 show. Now the company is developing electronic textile products, making use of this conductive ink. Consider the implications of nanotechnology and electronic textiles taken together. At the very least, it is a daring new venture.

Graphene, given its one-atom thickness combined with its tensile strength and electrical conductivity, is seen as a wonder material for obvious reasons. Vorbeck’s Vor-ink essentially allowed circuits to simply be drawn and printed on various materials—simple paper, polymer films, cardboard, etc.

The implications are immediate, of course: just imagine the cost savings in industrial chipset infrastructure.

Vorbeck intends to open up a second graphene facility in Maryland, in addition to ramping up production scales at the existing plant, according to Lab Manager Magazine.

More recently in January of this year, Vorbeck showed its technology off at the International Consumer Electronics Show. The original technology that Vorbeck is making use of comes from Princeton, where researchers developed the basic graphene fabricating technology.

Hypothetically, Vorbeck’s graphene applications could range from electrically conductive paints to batteries to anything in the printed electronics sector

And all of this is good news, because the nano-market is shaping up to be a major player; by 2010, the market was worth around $300 billion. Of that, the U.S. accounted for $110 billion.

Right now, Vorbeck is focused on bringing more of its graphene technologies up to market-ready production levels. Thus, it hopes to expand Vor-ink production to 40 tons annually.

If what we’ve seen thus far is anything to go by, we should expect to see a lot more graphene in our lives soon enough.