Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GRAPHENETECH (LARGE-SCALE PRODUCTION METHOD OF GRAPHENE TO REACH THE MARKET IN AN EFFECTIVE WAY)
Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-03-31
The presence of defects, impurities, structural disorders affects its properties. Furthermore, the synthesis of graphene by conventional methods involves the use of toxic chemicals (as sulphuric acid potassium permanganate) and, the generation of hazardous waste and poisonous gases.
Today, graphene can be manufactured from many different carbon sources, not just from graphite, be it natural or synthetic. The method employed has implications for quality and levels of defects, which in turn influences the applications to which the graphene is suited (i.e. manufacturing of thermoplastic polymers, paintings, batteries or application in hydrogen storage). However existing solutions are capital and/or operational intensive (e.g. Chemical Vapour Deposition), do not produce bulk graphene (e.g. Chemical Vapour Deposition or Chemical Exfoliation) or the quality of the final product is poor (e.g. Chemical Exfoliation that produces oxidised graphene with a defect density).
GRAPHENE-TECH has created and patented a new dry mechanical exfoliation method which implies temperature and pressure conditions that favour the exfoliation process of the graphite.
One of the greatest challenges being faced today in producing and commercializing graphene is how to produce high quality material on a large scale at low cost and in a reproducible manner. GRAPHENE-TECH is a project targeted in overcome the technical and commercial challenges of scaling up the dry micro-mechanical exfoliation process in the graphene production:
- Ensuring the production of graphene at low price (50 €/Kg face to 230 €/Kg) for industrial commercialization with high quality (95.5%) homogeneity and purity standards (zero solvents) when increasing the size of the reactor.
- Automation of the process maintaining reference times for each type of product. GrapheneTech will satisfy our client demands in form of three products: nanoplatelets with<40 layers (GP100) <20 layers (GP300) and/or <10 layers (GP500).
The following is a detail of the work carried out as well as the technical objectives achieved in this first annuity. In the first year of the GRAPHENETECH project, work packages 1 and 2 are completed, obtaining as a result the complete design of the industrial production plant and the start of the assembly of the first scaled and automated reactor.
Graphene Tech have used their existing pilot plant of 20 kg/day to up-scale the reactor capacity (70 kg/day) with the objective to ensure processing time and the number layers of different nanoplatelets (GP100, GP300 and GP500).
During the first 5 months of the Project, a complete study of the parameters to control the existing reactor was carried out in order to begin the design of the first scaled reactor and to verify its operation in virtual environments. Once this first phase of study was completed, the entire process automation system was designed to reduce production times and keep all key parameters that occur within the reactor completely controlled. Throughout the second semester of the project, the development has focused on optimizing the process, reducing time and keeping the entire process under control. For this, an automation system has been designed that allows us not only to control the speed of the engine and temperature of the reactor, but a completely isolated process in which the plant operator does not have to access the reactor at any time of the process since the filling and downloading is also done automatically and all of them are controlled from the PLC screen in an external control room. At the end of the annuity, the first scaled reactor was manufactured to be tested in our pilot plant and a prototype of the automation was assembled to check the operation of temperature and speed measurements of the engine and reactor.
Commercial work performed:
Graphene Tech, from the beginning of the project has been very clear that the dissemination of the project and its results as well as the attendance to multiple fairs of the sector to show their developments and get known is very important. That is why the marketing campaign has been very intense both in attendance at fairs and visits to potential customers and networks. During this first year we have attended a total of 30 events around the world, both large exhibitions with own stand or as a visitor, as workshops and scientific conferences. The network of contacts and clients acquired has been very beneficial, assuming 4 clients and 8 new collaborative projects with different sectors of the industry. The main fairs that have been disseminated as exhibitors have been: Nanotech Tokyo, GraphConf Barcelona, Mobile World Congress (Barcelona and San Francisco), TechConnect Washinton, Graphene Innovators Summint Nashville, IDTechEX (Berlin and Santa Clara), GrapheneWeek Athens ( Graphene Flagship) among others. All this for its greater diffusion has been published in social networks and Web. Furthermore, we have participated in several workshops of European projects with the University of Cambridge, going on to make collaborations with some of the partners and participating in turn in another SMEInstrument Phase 2, as graphene suppliers.
In addition to all this Graphene Tech has become part of the National Graphene Association (USA) as a corporate member, in order to give greater dissemination to the project, facilitating the market opening and begin a rapid commercialization in American territory.
Thanks to this, we have started to work with the huge polymer industry which is starting to have satisfactory results in its tests and will suppose high billing figures at the end of the project.