By Jared Senseman, Editor in Chief
“I believe that looking back ten years from now, we will see the present time as the point of emergence of a global graphene industry,” Nixon said in an interview. “The industry will consist of creating pure graphene products and embedding graphene and 2D materials in other products to enhance their performance.”
Discovered in 2004, graphene took the world by storm when its amazing properties began to come to light. The so-dubbed “wonder material” is stronger than steel, more conductive than copper, flexible and transparent. It’s believed to have the potential to revolutionize industries ranging from healthcare to consumer electronics.
Nixon is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a Senior Editor at InverstorIntel.com. He holds an MBA from the University of Bradford, and he has a keen eye for upcoming technologies and industries.
“From graphene manufacturing to its potential applications, it’s an exciting time,” Nixon said. “On the large-scale manufacturing and supply side watch for companies making graphene from graphite, especially ones that can access high purity deposits close to the surface. Companies that invest in technical facilities to purify and characterize their graphene products are also more likely to be credible suppliers.”
Nixon stated that graphene has the potential to be used in practically any industry; researchers are finding new uses all the time. This means the quality of a graphene product varies depending on the use to which it is put. What is quality for one application may be irrelevant in another. “If I had to identify one common success factor it is the ability of a supplier to make a consistent product,” he said.
Nixon sees a few applications in particular that are beginning to emerge as frontrunners. “Graphene nanoplatelets are being used as additives in carbon fiber composites to increase impact resistance. The graphene nanoplatelets mix uniformly with the binding polymer creating components that are stronger and lighter.”
Graphene nanoplatelets are also being added to tires to replace some of the carbon black and this improves the wear and grip of the rubber. Nixon observed “It was first thought that it was the strength of the graphene that was increasing the wear resistance. However researchers are reporting that it is in fact the heat transfer ability of the graphene nanoplatelets that distributes frictional heat through the material preventing it from overheating locally and making the tyre last longer.”
He notes that the improved grip performance of sports tires will certainly improve lap times and justify the premium price of graphene additives. “Whether the transport industry will pay the premium for extra miles from rubber tires is not clear at the moment,” Nixon said.
We are also starting to see Graphene sensors, coatings, and conductive inks, emerging as commercial applications. Graphene repels water, it is hydrophobic, but turn it in to an oxide and it stops being water repellent. Graphene oxide can be used to make membranes that filter out salt from seawater.
He added, “Energy is another area where graphene shows great potential. Much progress is being made using graphene in batteries and supercapacitors although many of these developments are still in the early stages at present. There is also some good research emerging on solar cells containing graphene and other 2D materials.”
Nixon stated that he’s even proposed a process for manufacturing continuous sheet graphene, and while it’s still in the hypothetical stage at the moment, it could theoretically be used in the production of a cable for a space elevator.
“The International Space Elevator Consortium have asked me to present the idea for the manufacturing process at the symposium for space elevators in London in November,” Nixon said. “If this process works, it solves the remaining big technical problem for them, and could mean a space elevator in the foreseeable future.”
Graphene Entrepreneur is a division of the National Graphene Association. The Mission of the NGA is to bring together current and future graphene stakeholders — entrepreneurs, companies, researchers, developers and suppliers, investors, venture capitalists and government agencies — to drive innovation, and to promote and facilitate the commercialization of graphene products and technologies in the United States.
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