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    Graphene 2017 – “There Are Years That Ask Questions and Years That Answer”

    Graphene 2017 – “There Are Years That Ask Questions and Years That Answer”

    The “wonder material” graphene is a 2D hexagonal array of carbon atoms that possesses a number of remarkable and record-breaking properties. Since its first isolation in 2004, a vast amount of research has explored the fundamental physics and potential applications for the world’s first 2D material, and in doing so achieving global acclaim. Now in its teenage years, we are witnessing the maturing of graphene applications. There are graphene-composite products already publicly available, and many more disruptive technologies now becoming closer to commercialisation. This article summarises the pivotal graphene stories of 2017.

    A Nature publication made global headlines in November for its use of “graphene balls” as a novel advanced anode for lithium ion batteries in mobile phones. The material consists of silica particles coated with a layer of graphene, enhancing the energy capacity by 45% and charging rate by 5 times, equating to a fully charged phone in just 12 minutes! This is just one of the hundreds of studies conducted that utilises graphene to improve the performance of batteries and supercapacitors for energy storage applications. Researchers at the University of Sussex proved that the battery is not the only component of mobile devices that graphene can enhance. Here, graphene and silver nanowires were coated onto acrylic plastic to produce a highly conductive, flexible screen. This is one of the contenders in the race to replace the brittle indium tin oxide screens used in our mobile phones today. It can be noted that this research is very fresh, which poses the question - can this technology be industrially scaled? And if so how many years will it be before flexible phones with a 12-minute charge are commercially available?

    Not only is graphene highly conductive, it is also the strongest material known to man. This property was utilised by scientists at MIT to create a material that was 10 times stronger than steel, whilst possessing only 5% of its density. In this study, 2D graphene sheets were compressed and heated to form a 3D structure that could be used as a lightweight replacement for steel in construction and infrastructure. This breakthrough may even spark the imagination of those in the field of aerospace. The material’s extremely low density would enable easier transport into space, allowing for the interplanetary construction of space stations and colonies at a much lower cost.

    The use of graphene oxide in water purification technology has also been a subject of much interest over the past year. Whilst it is common knowledge that graphene oxide has selective permeation to water, researchers at Hubei University have designed an alternative solar powered route to purify water. This technology uses a graphene oxide aerogel, which when exposed to sunlight can heat up water to 45 oC. This gives rise to a quicker evaporation process through the highly porous aerogel structure. This steam can then be condensed as pure water through a low energy method. It is unknown if this process is economically viable at an industrial scale, and further work to increase the heat conductivity may be required.

    Although the majority of these stories describe the advancement of graphene technologies, 2017 was also the year that launched a number of exciting commercial products. Joining the likes of graphene enhanced bicycle tyres, skis and fishing rods was an ultralight, high-performance watch, the RM50-03. Produced by Richard Mille and McLaren F1 in collaboration with the University of Manchester, this product may open the door for the development of graphene applications in the automotive industry in years to come. One crucial area that needs to be considered for the commercialisation of all graphene technologies is the materials availability, and it’s here where the expertise of William Blythe comes into play. The GOgraphene team at William Blythe are committed to the development and scaling-up of our graphene products, and pride ourselves in our abilities to work with our customers to optimise their technologies. If you would like to learn more about how graphene can be utilised in your applications, please do get in touch.

     

    Graphene Oxide Filters: Clean Drinking Water to Millions

    Graphene Oxide Filters: Clean Drinking Water to Millions

    According to independent research, the global market for water filtration and purification membranes is estimated to be worth more than US$25bn. Given the potential for graphene oxide in water filtration, it is therefore unsurprising that significant academic research has taken place into graphene oxide membranes.


    A key challenge when moving from academic research to commercial products involves ensuring the technology is scalable. G2O, a UK based graphene innovation company, has developed and patented graphene oxide membrane filtration technology and will be leading a £1m project to scale the technology over the next two years. The project includes a number of UK companies working on different aspects of the scale up. William Blythe is proud to announce that they will be working on this project as the graphene oxide material developer and supplier, optimising their graphene oxide for G2O’s membrane filters. Described as “an essential new technology capable of providing contaminant-free water in a cost-effective way for people in the developing world”, William Blythe are looking forward to working collaboratively on this project over the next two years.

    If you have any questions about William Blythe's graphene oxide research, please get in touch.

    Will The Faraday Challenge Result in New Graphene Based Products?

    Will The Faraday Challenge Result in New Graphene Based Products?

    The UK Government recently announced that new funding will be available for research around clean and flexible energy. Termed the ‘Faraday Challenge’, the funding has been described as “an investment of £246 million over 4 years to help UK businesses seize the opportunities presented by the transition to a low carbon economy, to ensure the UK leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of batteries for the electrification of vehicles”. While research included within this brief will be diverse, looking at all aspects of a battery and manufacturing processes, the question of whether graphene and related materials will find a home in this competition has come up many times already.


    Research around graphene and graphene oxide in battery applications is wide ranging, with the materials most frequently considered for use in the electrodes, often as composites. The two-dimensional nature of these materials can be exploited to achieve high surface area materials, often enhancing the performance of existing materials. The possibilities are not limited to the electrodes though, graphene oxide has a broad range of properties which could be exploited in future generations of batteries. One potential example would be the continued use of these materials in composites, used to increase the mechanical strength of polymers. Improvements in this area could be employed in new housing for batteries, to increase the safety of the driver if the battery pack was impacted during a traffic accident.


    The possibilities for graphene oxide in future generations of batteries is diverse, with opportunities presented in many aspects of the global transition into mainstream hybrid and electric vehicles. William Blythe has participated in Innovate UK funding previously and had an active interest in projects related to energy storage – with and without the inclusion of graphene oxide. If you have a project you would like to work on with William Blythe, please get in touch.

    Can graphene oxide help manage asthma?

    Can graphene oxide help manage asthma?

    Defined as an airway inflammation, asthma affects around 300 million people around the world. Current non-invasive methods for monitoring asthma are not only expensive, but are also limited by low sensitivity. One avenue of research around asthma monitoring is the use of biomarkers in exhaled breath condensate (EBC). The droplets of fluid which are exhaled during normal breathing include non-volatile compounds such as nitrate, nitrite and hydrogen peroxide as well as larger molecules such as proteins. There have been several research studies examining the use of EBC nitrite as a biomarker for measuring both inflammation and oxidative distress in the respiratory tract with promising results achieved.

    A recent paper published in Microsystems & Nanoengineering looked at using reduced graphene oxide for electrochemical sensing of nitrite content in exhaled breath condensate. The sensors were made by adding a 3 µL aliquot of graphene oxide dispersion to a gold electrode before drying the surface at room temperature. A glass slide was used to ensure a thin, even GO layer across the surface was achieved. The graphene oxide was then reduced electrochemically. Through multiple experiments, the researchers were able to demonstrate high precision in quantifying nitrite in the samples tested in the clinically relevant µM range. The team validated the performance of their sensors on clinical EBC samples by comparing to results previously achieved by chemiluminescence.

    If you are interested in using graphene oxide in your research, please get in touch. A member of the GOgraphene team will be happy to help answer your questions about which graphene oxide product might perform best and how we can support your research programme moving forward.

    Microsystems & Nanoengineering, 2017, 3, 17022

    William Blythe and the Graphene Oxide Application Experts

    William Blythe and the Graphene Oxide Application Experts

    After a 12 month development programme, William Blythe launched their GOgraphene webshop to supply research scale quantities of graphene oxide to the market. Just over 6 months later, William Blythe is now seeking to not only increase their graphene oxide capacity, but also to start working with leaders in the field on developing application enhanced grades of graphene oxide.

    Over the past few weeks, William Blythe have attended several graphene oxide and 2D material related events throughout Europe, listening to the requirements of the exciting technologies graphene oxide is being applied in. A recent event at the National Graphene Institute (NGI) in Manchester, UK, gave the opportunity for one of William Blythe’s Development Chemists to present on our graphene oxide. Looking at how the project was conceived through to commercialisation and next steps, the presentation allowed the attending researchers, both academic and industrial, to learn more about how William Blythe can help to develop and commercialise the materials they need.

    Our team will continue to attend events to learn more about industry requirements, with the next one scheduled for the 21st June, also at the NGI. If you are holding an event and would like William Blythe to participate, please send us the details.