Zenyatta Ventures: Graphene Shows Potential for Medical Device Sensors

Zenyatta Ventures: Graphene Shows Potential for Medical Device Sensors - Featured Graphene Medical Sensors
Professor Dr. Alan Dalton, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK, with expertise in Nanotechnology, Physical Chemistry and Polymer Chemistry showing a touchscreen containing graphene

Graphene is globally regarded as the new “wonder material” of the 21st century, essentially because of its many extraordinary characteristics.  It is a single sheet of carbon, discovered at the University of Manchester in 2004, which will eventually find its way into nearly all industries and have a dramatic positive impact on our society, including areas of energy storage, electronics, clothing , medical device sensors, water purification and enhanced concrete .

“Composite material enhancement is one of the most promising applications for , in value and volume,” stated Aubrey Eveleigh, President and CEO of Zenyatta Ventures Ltd (TSXV.ZEN).

We last spoke with Eveleigh in August 2016, when Zenyatta had just announced the successful completion of tests with Dr. Oren Regev at Ben-Gurion University in which graphene derived from Albany graphite was added to concrete in an Israeli joint venture.  Eveleigh told us that this exciting project is “progressing very well in Israel with our partners at Ben-Gurion University and Larisplast Ltd. that will lead to a scaled-up pilot plant there.” Once complete in the next few months, it will be exceptional news for Zenyatta and, indeed, a ‘game-changer’ for the entire graphene and concrete sectors. One of the big criticisms of graphene in the past was the absence of an application which required tonnes rather than grams. Enhancing concrete or other composites is just such an application that will require large volumes of high-quality graphene material.

More recently, in addition to the concrete enhancement project, Zenyatta announced more exciting composite testing results with material scientists at the University of Sussex, UK.   The Company’s graphene was homogeneously dispersed into a rubber composite that achieved a several fold improvement in the electrical and thermal properties along with increased strength and elasticity.  Sussex researchers have turned to nanomaterials like graphene to develop disruptive, high-performance rubber composite sensors that can detect motions as subtle as those associated with breathing or a pulse. There is a large potential market for graphene infused rubber composites for sensor applications in wearable sports clothing and medical devices as health monitors just to name a couple.

Dr. Alan Dalton, Professor of Experimental Physics at Sussex is quoted in the release as saying, “The exfoliation of Zenyatta graphite was very clean with the production of mostly monolayer and bilayer graphene. Our initial results using Zenyatta graphene in rubber composites show exceptional motion sensitivity to mechanical stress which is critical for sensor applications. We will be investigating the use of these composites in several other applications in conjunction with the appropriate industrial partners.”

This is the sort of scientific breakthrough validation a graphite deposit needs. “The people at Sussex and Ben-Gurion had tried other types of natural graphite from around the world,” said Eveleigh, “But they did not exfoliate into graphene and then disperse as well as ours did.”

Graphene is typically added, in the form of nano-particles, to existing composite materials or substituted for existing ingredients. As an example, in volumes of 1% or less, it can be added to an existing polymer to add strength as well as function. Sports equipment maker Head, for example, adds graphene to the stems of its tennis rackets to reduce weight and add strength.  Bicycle tire manufacturer Vittoria and Italian graphene manufacturer Directa Plus include graphene in its high-performance tires. We are also seeing graphene research undertaken in the huge vehicle tire marketplace. A Chinese tire company called Qingdao Sentury Tire and a graphene producer (Huagao Graphene Technology) have signed an agreement to produce enhanced automobile tires. The fact that Zenyatta graphene has tested well in a rubber application will make it all the more attractive to the automotive marketplace.

Dr. Bharat Chahar, VP Market Development for Zenyatta noted, “This further confirms the distinct and desirable properties of Albany graphite for conversion to graphene which was previously recognized by scientists in Israel, Japan and Canada. We continue to find that our graphite displays easier production of consistently high quality and dispersible graphene which is opening doors for new and important value-added , especially composites.”

Zenyatta is currently involved in greater than 40 joint projects globally with end-users and academics testing their Albany graphite and graphene for various high-tech applications.  “It’s not enough to discover a unique industrial nanomaterial,” said Eveleigh, “You have to carry out rigorous testing in order to validate your material and show a potential long-term commercial opportunity. It is absolutely necessary in order to create and develop a strong relationship with downstream corporations.”  A consistent and high-quality raw material source for an end user’s supply chain is critical in order to maintain long-term quality control for product specifications.  It is a fundamental point and one which precedes the thought of a meaningful investment, off-take agreement or long-term collaboration.

While all graphite may be chemically the same (carbon), Zenyatta’s deposit differs in its natural high purity, lack of contaminants, unique crystalline structure and particle size distribution which is showing its potential for , fuel cells or various graphene applications.

“After running Albany graphite deposit material through our process, we yield a material of 99.9% pure carbon at a production cost of ~US$2.00 per kilogram under the PEA.  We then use simple exfoliation methods to produce high-quality graphene” said Eveleigh.

Zenyatta is currently conducting a pre-feasibility study on its large Albany graphite deposit. “We’re scaling up the metallurgical flow sheet and carrying out application development with our collaborators globally,” said Eveleigh. “The Company is continuously de-risking the project. Improving our flow sheet and seeking more potential industrial applications for our product. We expect our cost numbers to be much better defined in our pre-feasibility study compared to our PEA.”

All of which comes as the resource sector in general and graphite in particular show signs of picking up. “The market trend is strong for specialty materials in batteries, fuel cells and a nano-material like graphene,” said Eveleigh. “The mood is improving and we are seeing a strong interest in our sector.”

Zenyatta’s strategy of validating its unique graphite in multiple use case situations offers investors a window into the graphene revolution taking place at corporations and universities around the world. Adding strength and value to everyday products like concrete and rubber creates the future demand which will drive the development of Zenyatta’s rare hydrothermal graphite deposit in northern Ontario, Canada.

At time of writing, Zenyatta is trading at $0.90 with 62.88 million shares outstanding for a market cap of $56.6 million.

Source: Financial Post