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Green and Straightforward process for the synthesis of Graphene based-nanomaterials for energy applications

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GRAPHEEN (Green and Straightforward process for the synthesis of Graphene based-nanomaterials for energy applications)

Reporting period: 2015-02-01 to 2015-07-31

In overall terms, the GRAPHEEN project is aimed at scaling up our own-patented technology for the industrial production of graphene and graphene based composites, with a special focus on the production of nanomaterials for energy storage applications like supercapacitors and Li-ion batteries. Graphene and graphene based composites have emerged as the ideal candidate materials to substitute other conventional materials currently used as electrodes in energy storage devices (most of them currently based on graphite or other forms of carbon). The reason is basically the fact that graphene, which is a recently discovered form of carbon awarded with the Nobel Prize in 2010, is the only material known that gathers together the extraordinary properties of having a great mechanical and tensile strength, the largest surface area described for any other material, a high chemical stability and superior thermal and electrical conductivities. The combination of these extraordinary properties in a single material, makes of graphene a unique material with no others having neither similar nor even closer properties and this is by itself a revolutionary and disruptive discovery, at the height of the Nobel Prize. However, what really makes of graphene a huge promise under a macroeconomic perspective globally is that graphene in essence is carbon, which is one of the most abundant elements in earth. This is why graphene has attracted a huge social, economical and industrial interest over the last years and this is why some sources predict that graphene will become the responsible of the next technological revolution, in the same way that silicon enabled the revolution of the 20th Century, known as “the era of computing and communications”. All these reasons justify the immense research efforts and financing initiatives (private and public) aimed at trying to exploit the unique properties of graphene in several applications and especially in energy storage because of the increasing demand for greener and more efficient energy supply. In this specific area, graphene based materials have proved to substantially increase the energy storage capacity and efficiency of Li-ion batteries and other more recent devices like supercapacitors. However, in spite of the huge progress made on graphene research for energy applications and some other different areas, there are still some barriers that prevent the implementation of this unique material in real industrial applications, and one of the most important ones is the lack of industrially viable methods for the production of graphene and graphene based composites at acceptable prices in an industrial scale.

Gnanomat S.L. has developed and patented a technology for the production graphene based composites, meaning graphene combined with other chemical species like metals, metal oxides and polymers, which offer enormous advantages over other competing technologies: it is a simple and inexpensive process, no chemical treatments are needed, no need for toxic or environmental harmful solvents/reagents and the most important feature is the huge versatility of the process for the production of a wide spectrum of different composite materials. Thanks to the unique features of our technology, it has the potential to become the gold-standard method for industrial production of graphene based materials, offering a solution to overcome the critical barrier in exploiting the potential of graphene. In the GRAPHEEN project we aim at scaling up our process as a way to demonstrate its actual viability as a cost effective method for industrial production of graphene based materials. Our final goal is to industrialize our process and to make it becoming the reference method for production of these materials at industrial scale. With this final goal in mind, during this Phase 1 project we have performed an in-depth evaluation of the feasibility of our business plan, covering its technical feasibility, its commercial feasibility and its financial feasibility.
During Phase 1, we have performed an in-depth assessment of the feasibility of the GRAPHEEN project. The work performed and main achievements are as follows:

TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY: From a technical point of view, the GRAPHEEN project aims at scaling up to a DEMO plant, our patented method for the production of graphene based composites. The objective for Phase 1 was to validate the viability of our method for the production of these materials at industrial scale, enabling an acceptable price for their possible implementation in energy storage systems. Furthermore, as our method allows the production of a wide range of graphene based composites with different compositions and because our major interest is the production of materials to be used in electrodes of Li-ion batteries and supercapacitors, in the GRAPHEEN project we plan to test and validate the performance of the developed materials in these applications in a real operational environment. Considering these two major technological goals hereafter, for the phase 1 project we have performed the following activities:
• Definition of the best material compositions to be optimized in the project, in collaboration with industrial partners in the energy storage field.
• Preliminary design of a demonstration plant for scaling up our production process for the production of 1 Kg/week of our graphene based materials.
• Elaboration of a work plan for the GRAPHEEN project, including a risk assessment.

COMMERCIAL FEASIBILITY: The Commercial feasibility study was planned for this Phase 1 of the GRAPHEEN project as a way to understand better the market we aim to enter, so to help us in the definition of an optimal commercialization strategy. The work performed during the action has been as:
• Performing an in-depth market research study of Global markets for Lithium Ion Batteries, supercapacitors and graphene-based materials: Key market factors, segmentation, value chain analysis and a complete analysis of competitors.
• Redefinition of our business model and elaboration of a commercialization plan: market entry strategy and timeline and resources required to reach go-to-market.

FINANCIAL FEASIBILITY: The financial feasibility study was planned for this Phase 1 as a way to carefully analyze the financing needs to bring the GRAPHEEN products and process to the market and to evaluate the profitability of GRAPHEEN project (Return Of Investment, R.O.I.). Therefore, the worm performed during phase 1 has been the following:
A) Calculation of the total financing needs for the GRAPHEEN project: investment need to reach the go to market stage.
B) Evaluation 3 different financial scenarios for the following 5 years of product commercialization (pessimistic, realistic and optimistic).
Gnanomat S.L has developed (PCT number: PCT/ES2014/070652) an environmental friendly, safe (no need for hazardous or toxic chemical reagents or solvent) straightforward method for the production of graphene-based materials (graphene combined with metal oxides and conductive polymers) in a one single step procedure, which will allow the easy and low cost industrial production of these materials. Our novel technology will enable definitively the use of these materials in LIBs and supercapacitors, two rapidly growing market segments. As for understanding the business opportunity, the global energy storage market is predicted to experience a healthy growth from the €34 billion in 2014 to about €50 billion by 2020. The market growth will be driven by the increased need for exploiting the potential of renewable energy, the growing sales of consumer electronics and most importantly, the irruption of the electric vehicle in the transportation sector. All these applications are constantly demanding more and more efficient energy storage systems, so the energy storage market is rapidly evolving in terms of technology development and adoption of novel technologies/products. In line with these market trends and features, graphene based materials are predicted to have a huge impact in the energy storage sector due to the significant enhancements in energy storage efficiency achievable by their use as electrode materials. Within the energy storage market, the two segments in which graphene based materials are predicted to have a major impact over the next years are Li-ion batteries (a market expected to cross €19.5 billion by 2017) and supercapacitors (a market segment expected to overpass €1 billion by year 2019). These reasons explain why, while at the materials level the graphene market is nowadays a nascent market valued at €15.5M the growth predicted for the next years is as impressive as a 60.4% CAGR, being estimating to reach a market value of €1.3 billion by year 2023. The analysis of the market features, trends and predicted growth sustains a clear opportunity for graphene based materials in the energy storage market, which in turn means a clear opportunity for us.
Graphene properties for energy storage applications
Advatages of our patentes technology for production of graphene and graphene based composites