From electronic biosensor tattoos to water filters that make river and lake water drinkable, attendees of the inaugural National Graphene Innovation Summit & Expo shared a bounty of graphene-related technologies and breakthroughs Monday.
The event, which runs through Tuesday, October 31, at the Music City Center in Nashville, brought together leading researchers and entrepreneurs to discuss the commercialization of graphene, the “super material” that consists of a single atomic layer of carbon—a tiny package with explosive and revolutionary potential.
The first day of the conference, presented by the National Graphene Association, was a whirlwind of panel discussions, idea pitches and networking. Keynote speaker Dr. Kari Hjelt, Head of Innovation for the Graphene Flagship in Europe, discussed his organization’s role in funding and advancing graphene research, while Dr. Antonio Castro Neto, director of the Centre for Advanced 2D Materials in Singapore, emphasized the importance of establishing worldwide standards for the production of high-quality graphene.
One panel discussion, featuring entrepreneur James Vig Sherrill of General Graphene and investor Eric Dobson of Angel Capital Group, addressed the challenges of working with venture capitalists to bring graphene products out of university laboratories and into the private sector. Dobson reminded the audience that his chief aim as an investor is always to make money—and make it fast. “Strings always come attached with venture capital,” he noted.
“It’s OK to love your tech, but you’d better love and understand your customer, too,” Dobson added. A great product isn’t enough, and deep pockets will only carry you so far if you don’t know how to market and manage your business. “Capital is not a panacea,” he said. “Throwing money at problems doesn’t work.”
Sherrill noted that graphene is a wide-open field that will reward those with foresight, ambition and a willingness to take a risk on a technology that most investors still haven’t even heard of. Great success stories in business don’t come about by following trends, he said. “The ones who win are the ones who set the trends,” he said. “Graphene is one of those rare opportunities that, 20 years from now, people will look back and go, ‘Duh. That really was amazing.’”
Conference attendees saw a plethora of state-of-the-art graphene-based products that could change the world, including a water filter developed by Standard Graphene that purifies river, lake and rain water, potentially ending water shortage problems around the world; a graphene-based solution that boosts the capacity of lithium batteries by as much as 600 percent; and ultra-thin, graphene-based electronic tattoos that could replace medical sensors for monitoring electrical activity of the heart, brain and muscles and advance human-machine interactions.