The first official experiment has taken place in a novel collaboration between industry and academia in the production of graphene - a one-atom thick carbon allotrope with a multitude of potential applications.
Morgan Advanced Materials joined forces last year with The University of Manchester - where graphene was first isolated a decade ago - to explore the potential of the material, with a full-time team based at the University's National Graphene Institute (NGI). Morgan is one of the Institute's first industrial partners.
The project is gathering pace, with early work focusing on scaling up Manchester's patented technology to produce graphene. This process sees molecules driven between the layers of a graphite electrode to separate them.
The process is radically different from chemical vapour deposition (CVD) methods, which are used to grow individual graphene layers upon a substrate, and generally require high processing temperatures with low throughput.
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.
Dr Mike Murray, Chief Technology Officer of Morgan Advanced Materials, commented: "With its unique combination of properties - light weight, chemical inertness, and large surface area- the potential industrial applications of graphene are enormous, but much depends on finding the most viable and cost-effective method of manufacture. As a global leader in the development and practical application of proprietary materials, Morgan is ideally placed to lead this process in conjunction with the NGI. We have committed a full-time team to be based at the NGI and are delighted with the results to date, which indicate the very real possibility of manufacturing larger graphene layers, able to be adapted for a range of requirements."
James Baker, Business Director at the National Graphene Institute, added: "We are already seeing great results from this exciting partnership and collaboration between NGI and Morgan Advanced Materials. This demonstrates the benefits of co-locating industry engineering and academic research teams to accelerate the commercialisation of graphene material and its applications."
Source: Morgan Advanced Materials
Top image: University of Manchester