The Graphene Council is the world’s leading reference point when it comes to expertise in the commercialisation of graphene – a material whose extraordinary properties enable its use in a vast array of application areas
For Terrance Barkan, Executive Director at The Graphene Council, graphene’s attributes offer so many possibilities for the material’s application that it can almost be compared to plastic when the latter was first invented. “At first, it was not very clear how plastics were going to be used and how diverse their applications would be, and we are seeing something similar happening with graphene. As of now, we have identified over 40 vertical applications for graphene materials, being at the front end of understanding all the different ways in which graphene can enhance existing applications.”
The material has rightly been described as one with almost limitless potential. It is the thinnest known to man – so thin that it is considered to be two-dimensional, as well as the strongest ever measured, 100-300 times stronger than steel. Furthermore, it is the best conductor of electricity and heat, also being nearly transparent. What is equally impressive, is the ability to combine graphene with other elements and molecules to create new hybrid materials, but more on that later.
“We founded The Graphene Council in 2013 with the idea of serving the global community of graphene professionals, including researchers, academics, producers, developers, investors, nanotechnologists, regulatory agencies, research institutes, and material science specialists. Our mission is to advance and support the commercial adoption of graphene as an industrial material,” states Terrance.
Today, The Graphene Council represents more than 25,000 scientists worldwide, with approximately a third of those working in the academic sector and the rest being engaged in commercial activities. In addition, the organisation has around 20 manufacturing companies as members. Terrance discusses the services his organisation offers to the graphene community: “One of the key insights we provide, is a weekly graphene intelligence briefing, which includes the latest on commercial developments and academic research, together with a list of all the patents that have been registered in the past seven days on a global scale. We also work with colleagues to produce a bulk graphene pricing and market report, which details different vertical applications, price points, and factors for graphene materials to be competitive in various areas, such as plastics and composites, for example.”
At present, every single graphene manufacturer represented by The Graphene Council is increasing production capacity, due to the growth in sales they are experiencing. Naturally, this commercial pull is excellent news for the body, but the rapid development of the industry also makes it more difficult to distinguish between the truly reliable providers and the less reputable businesses popping up in numbers almost on a daily basis.
“It is incredibly hard for end users to understand which company is reputable and able to produce on an industrial scale. This is why The Graphene Council has to continue its educational efforts on how to connect with trusted graphene producing companies and take advantage of all the amazing properties graphene can offer,” Terrance points out.
“An important step in the right direction is the Verified Graphene Producer™ Programme we initiated. In fact, we have just issued our very first certification to an English company called Versarien. The Programme furthers our ambition of being an independent and neutral third-party source of reliable information for the graphene community,” he continues. “We carry out physical inspection of production facilities and take random samples of a material, which we then characterise in a world-class lab, in this case, the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, to assess the reliability of various graphene companies.”
Earlier, we hinted that graphene possesses the remarkable ability to mix with other materials and significantly enhance their properties. Terrance holds that, at this point in time, graphene is at a stage where it can be best utilised as an additive that supports existing materials. “There are lots of application areas and dozens of academic papers are written literally every day on the possible uses of this material. Graphene is wellsuited to play a role in composites, plastics, or structural materials, as well as in 3D printing. The potential is untapped and the challenge is to figure out how best to incorporate the material into the production process.
“It is wrongly perceived that graphene is prohibitively expensive and this is an area where we need to reverse the widely-held beliefs,” Terrance adds. “While it is true that in large amounts, it is very expensive, you usually need an extremely small amount of the material to improve the performance of a product, and, most of the time, this is a welcome and affordable option. This being said, the challenge for manufacturers is to understand how to disperse the graphene into the host matrix, i.e., the material they are adding it to, because we are talking about a nanomaterial, working with which requires extra precision. Therefore, I would strongly advise end users to collaborate with a producer or an integrator who possesses the knowledge and the experience to do the dispersion, in order to get the desired result,” he explains.
In strengthening its position as a vital link between manufacturers and end users, The Graphene Council will make an appearance at the Advanced Materials Show (co-located with Ceramics UK) this July in Telford, presenting its agenda to a global audience. Together with this, 2019 and the years ahead promise to be marked by the extended collaboration between the Council and its partnering organisations. For more than four years now, the body has been part of the ANSI / ISO Technical Committee 229 Nanotechnologies and the IEC Technical Committee 113 Standards Development Groups. Moreover, the Graphene Council is a founding affiliate member of the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre at the University of Manchester, which gives it access to the institution’s grapheneproduction facilities.
“The connections we have will support us in our efforts to advocate for transparency and focus on information exchange across the industry. The commercialisation of graphene provides innumerable possibilities to reduce energy consumption and improve the efficacy of products and applications, which will benefit almost any sector you can imagine. As the largest organisation representing the graphene sector, we will continue to grow by interfacing with producers and end users alike and all other stakeholders to ensure the right solutions are always found,” Terrance concludes.
The Graphene Council
Services: Advisory services to the graphene community