More exciting developments from the graphene sector. Haydale, a British company developed out of Swansea University, and Gwent Electronic Materials, have together worked to create a graphene ink that could have major implications for the electronics sector.
Already, graphene has the tech components and smartphone industries interested. That’s mostly because the seemingly magical material could make flexible computer and phone screens a reality.
The two companies claim their graphene ink could pave the road toward commercialization for flexible displays, touchscreens, “smart” packaging, thin photovoltaics, and transparent electrodes, reports the Financial Times.
From the Financial Times:
Ray Gibbs, commercial director of Haydale, said: “Graphene has been described as a ‘zero billion dollar market’, mainly because many of the applications that have been discussed are dependent on production technologies that are yet to be developed commercially. The immediate use of [our] materials . . . allows many of the key applications to be realised in the near term.” He said it was a “significant milestone”.
It’s true that despite graphene’s potentially enormous application in diverse industries, not much tangible progress has been made due to the lack of any viable commercial-scale production process. In short, we’re still clueless how graphene can be stretched across a surface.
But this ink development offers novel opportunities. Perhaps the minute platelets of graphene present in the ink could simply be sprayed on, or printed on, thereby creating a sizable area that also possesses graphene’s physical properties.
All of this is very good news for Haydale and all interested parties, since the conductive ink market is already worth about $2.9 billion. The ink was unveiled at the recent Graphene Commercialization and Applications Summit held in London, and Haydale has already begun marketing it commercially.
One sour note is that the price of graphene still remains very high; as of now, a single kilogram of graphene ink would cost £550 (or just over two pounds for $838). Presumably, with wider applications and more development, that steep price will begin to drop.
Worldwide Interest in Graphene
The European Union has committed itself to graphene research and development in a serious way. At the conference, the EU’s 1 billion euros research fund was a topic of much discussion. The fund is meant to be used to further research in creating flexible smartphones and other composite graphene materials that could unleash a new generation of batteries and solar cells.
The company 2-DTech, for example, currently manufactures single-layer graphene sheets, which are created by a process of chemical vapor deposition onto diverse materials. The company also manufactures exfoliated graphene platelets that can either be kept in a liquid dispersion or laminated onto sheets.
Other major companies are also keen on graphene. Swedish vehicle company Volvo is looking into graphene’s applications to the automotive sector; in particular, the company is trying to make use of graphene in engine components, batteries, cooling fluids, as well as motors and exhausts.
And Nokia, the Finnish phone giant, is looking to make use of graphene to try and replace the iridium tin oxide the company presently uses in touchscreens. Among the problems that come with the use of iridium tin oxide are its brittleness, rising cost, and supply shortages. In other industries, airplane companies Spirit (NASDAQ: SAVE) and BAE Systems (LSE: BA) are working on developing graphene applications.
Per the Haydale press release, the metal-free HDPlas™ Graphene Ink Sc213 is devised with screen-printing applications in mind. Viscosity and solid content is customized to enable full conductivity, while the inks are also further customizable.
That means the graphene ink could be used in plastic electronics and sensors, flexible displays, LCDs, e-paper, OLED devices, thin-film photovoltaic wafers and cells, and a variety of other electrochemical devices. We should reasonably expect a slew of new products in various markets soon that rely on Haydale’s breakthrough technology.
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The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Innovative Carbon Limited and has patented its “Split Plasma” technology. This is a novel approach to producing graphene nanoplatelets, bypassing standard chemical-intensive methods. The Split Plasma technology is completely scalable and much more environmentally-sensitive. This is what enables Haydale to claim its graphene inks are completely customizable.
Gwent Electronic Materials, meanwhile, supplies inks and pastes for electronic and sensor applications worldwide, producing up to 100,000 kilograms of ink paste every year.
Graphene, the sheet-like form of carbon that’s one atom thick yet a hundred times stronger than steel and fully conductive, has grabbed the attention of tech-heads the world over. Just recently it was discovered that graphene can be made to switch on or off its magnetic fields, adding to the exciting potential this wonder-material holds for the future of electronics.
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