The UK’s new National Graphene Institute (NGI) in Manchester has announced the successful scale up of a patented technology to produce graphene. The process, developed in collaboration with Morgan Advanced Materials in Berkshire, UK, offers an alternative path to producing graphene: an electrochemical method that allows it to be peeled off graphite without oxidation.
‘We currently do not have a method that allows production of large quantities – gram or kilogram levels – of pristine graphene flakes in a cost effective and eco-friendly manner,’ comments Gurpreet Singh at Kansas State University, US. ‘The only method that comes closer to scalable production of graphene for bulk applications is the Hummer’s method that involves oxidation of graphite to produce water soluble graphene oxide [but] such flakes are highly damaged and never completely free of oxygen.’
The NGI is tight lipped about the process details, although the results are published in the literature and in patents.
‘This process sees molecules driven between the layers of graphite electrodes to separate them,’ it states.
‘Advances in this area enable greater flexibility of the process, controlling properties such as flake size and thickness while also allowing the inclusion of other attributes via in situ functionalisation, to meet precise specifications depending on exact application needs.’
‘[Morgan] is looking to develop materials that it can put into products so that it adds value. So getting the recipe right is absolutely critical if you are going to scale up to that volume,’ says James Baker, business director at the NGI.
‘Generally this would be a composite or a ceramic, so the products will be a graphene-enhanced product, which it can then sell to automotive or aerospace or other sectors in future,’ he adds.