The Graphene Roadmap: Commercializing Graphene – Featured Graphene Latest Innovations



Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre

James Baker, Business Director for Graphene at The University of Manchester, talks to AZoNano about the current state of the graphene market and the key next steps needed.

When we last spoke back in 2015 the National Graphene Institute (NGI) had been focused on the successful commercialisation of graphene through collaborative work between research and industry. How has the graphene community developed since then?

The University of Manchester (UoM) now has over 250 researchers working on graphene and 2D materials and the National Graphene Institute (NGI) has now been open for over 2 years. The NGI has provided a key facility and capability in bringing together the multi-disciplinary research from across the University together with developing partnerships and collaborations with industry to accelerate the development of graphene products and applications. 




We are also close to opening our second graphene building, the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, next year. This will allow the University to create a unique hub for 2D materials knowledge and commercialisation in Manchester alongside close links with industry.




The graphene roadmap was a crucial part of the conversation two years ago. Where do you think the industry currently stands in-line with these predictions?

Road-mapping is a key part of the commercialisation journey but I am now seeing a much more significant “applications pull” from industry which is resulting in increasing engagement of activity and translation into projects and the development of new graphene enhanced concepts and applications.

You recently spoke about commercialisation at Graphene Week 2017. What were the key areas of discussion this year?

As always there is a significant amount of new science being presented at Graphene Week, but there was also evidence of industry now starting to get “interesting” and “beneficial” results from their engagements and projects involving graphene with a significant amount of progress having taken place over the past two years.



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New “Instantly Rechargeable” Flow Battery could Dramatically Change EV Market


IN BRIEF

Purdue researchers have developed a flow battery that would allow electric cars to be recharged instantly at stations like conventional cars are. The technology is clean, safe, and cheap.

GO WITH THE FLOW

Purdue researchers have developed technology for an “instantly rechargeable” battery that is affordable, environmentally friendly, and safe. Currently, electric vehicles need charging ports in convenient locations to be viable, but this battery technology would allow drivers of hybrid and electric vehicles to charge up much like drivers of conventional cars refill quickly and easily at gas stations.

This breakthrough would not only speed the switch to electric vehicles by making them more convenient to drive, but also reduce the amount of new supportive infrastructure needed for electric cars dramatically. 

Purdue University professors John Cushman and Eric Nauman teamed up with doctoral student Mike Mueterthies to co-found Ifbattery LLC (IF-battery) for commercializing and developing the technology.
Image Credit: John Cushman/Purdue

The new model is a flow battery, which does not require an electric charging station to be recharged. Instead, all the users have to do is replace the battery’s fluid electrolytes — rather like filling up a tank. 

This battery’s fluids from used batteries, all clean, inexpensive, and safe, could be collected and recharged at any solar, wind, or hydroelectric plant. Electric cars using this technology would arrive at the refueling station, deposit spent fluids for recharging, and “fill up” like a traditional car might.

CLEANER, FASTER BATTERY TECHNOLOGY

This flow battery system is unique because, unlike other versions of the flow battery, this one lacks the membranes which are both costly and vulnerable to fouling. 

“Membrane fouling can limit the number of recharge cycles and is a known contributor to many battery fires,” Cushman said in a press release. “Ifbattery’s components are safe enough to be stored in a family home, are stable enough to meet major production and distribution requirements, and are cost effective.”

What’s My Range? Electric Vehicles (Click to View Full Infographic)

Transitioning existing infrastructure to accommodate cars using these batteries would be far simpler than designing and building a host of new charging stations — which is Tesla’s current strategy. Existing pumps could even be used for these battery chemicals, which are very safe.

“Electric and hybrid vehicle sales are growing worldwide and the popularity of companies like Tesla is incredible, but there continues to be strong challenges for industry and consumers of electric or hybrid cars,” Cushman said in the press release. “The biggest challenge for industry is to extend the life of a battery’s charge and the infrastructure needed to actually charge the vehicle.”

When can we expect to see these batteries in use? 
The biggest hurdle isn’t the materials, which are cheap and plentiful, but person power. The researchers still need more financing to complete research and development to put the batteries into mass production.

 To overcome this problem, they’re working to publicize the innovation in the hopes of drawing interest from investors.

References: Purdue, Purdue Research Park

Quantum Computing: What is it? How does it work? What will it Mean to Us?


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Quantum computing is the area of study focused on developing computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory. The quantum computer, following the laws of quantum physics, would gain enormous processing power through the ability to be in multiple states, and to perform tasks using all possible permutations simultaneously.

 

 

A Comparison of Classical and Quantum Computing

Classical computing relies, at its ultimate level, on principles expressed by Boolean algebra. Data must be processed in an exclusive binary state at any point in time or bits. While the time that each transistor or capacitor need be either in 0 or 1 before switching states is now measurable in billionths of a second, there is still a limit as to how quickly these devices can be made to switch state. As we progress to smaller and faster circuits, we begin to reach the physical limits of materials and the threshold for classical laws of physics to apply. Beyond this, the quantum world takes over.

In a quantum computer, a number of elemental particles such aselectrons or photons can be used with either their charge or polarizationacting as a representation of 0 and/or 1. Each of these particles is known as a quantum bit, or qubit, the nature and behavior of these particles form the basis of quantum computing.

Quantum Superposition and Entanglement

The two most relevant aspects of quantum physics are the principles ofsuperposition and entanglement.

  • Superposition: Think of a qubit as an electron in a magnetic field. The electron’s spin may be either in alignment with the field, which is known as a spin-up state, or opposite to the field, which is known as a spin-down state. According to quantum law, the particle enters a superposition of states, in which it behaves as if it were in both states simultaneously. Each qubit utilized could take a superposition of both 0 and 1.
  • Entanglement: Particles that have interacted at some point retain a type of connection and can be entangled with each other in pairs, in a process known as correlation. Knowing the spin state of one entangled particle – up or down – allows one to know that the spin of its mate is in the opposite direction. Quantum entanglement allows qubits that are separated by incredible distances to interact with each other instantaneously (not limited to the speed of light). No matter how great the distance between the correlated particles, they will remain entangled as long as they are isolated.

Taken together, quantum superposition and entanglement create an enormously enhanced computing power. Where a 2-bit register in an ordinary computer can store only one of four binary configurations (00, 01, 10, or 11) at any given time, a 2-qubit register in a quantum computer can store all four numbers simultaneously, because each qubit represents two values. If more qubits are added, the increased capacity is expanded exponentially.

Difficulties with Quantum Computers

  • Interference – During the computation phase of a quantum calculation, the slightest disturbance in a quantum system (say a stray photon or wave of EM radiation) causes the quantum computation to collapse, a process known as de-coherence. A quantum computer must be totally isolated from all external interference during the computation phase.
  • Error correction – Given the nature of quantum computing, error correction is ultra critical – even a single error in a calculation can cause the validity of the entire computation to collapse.
  • Output observance – Closely related to the above two, retrieving output data after a quantum calculation is complete risks corrupting the data.

The Future of Quantum Computing

The biggest and most important one is the ability to factorize a very large number into two prime numbers. That’s really important because that’s what almost all encryption of internet applications use and can be de-encrypted. A quantum computer should be able to do that relatively quickly. Calculating the positions of individual atoms in very large molecules like polymers and in viruses. The way that the particles interact with each other – if you have a quantum computer you could use it to develop drugs and understand how molecules work a bit better. quantum c II 070216 safe_image (1)

Even though there are many problems to overcome, the breakthroughs in the last 15 years, and especially in the last 3, have made some form of practical quantum computing possible. However, the potential that this technology offers is attracting tremendous interest from both the government and the private sector. It is this potential that is rapidly breaking down the barriers to this technology, but whether all barriers can be broken, and when, is very much an open question.

Contributed by Ahmed Banafa

References

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21578027-first-real-world-contests-between-quantum-computers-and-standard-ones-faster

http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/quantum-computing

http://physics.about.com/od/quantumphysics/f/quantumcomp.htm

Nanotechnology and the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’: Solving Our Biggest Challenges with the Smallest of Things


Fourth IR 051416 AAEAAQAAAAAAAATfAAAAJGEzY2E0NWViLWU4OGItNDZkZi1hYmZiLTA1YTY1NzczNGQzNAThe Fourth Industrial Revolution: The 7 Technologies Changing Our world: When Will the Future “Arrive”?

From intelligent robots and self-driving cars to gene editing and 3D printing, dramatic technological change is happening at lightning speed all around us.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is being driven by a staggering range of new technologies that are blurring the boundaries between people, the internet and the physical world. It’s a convergence of the digital, physical and biological spheres.

It’s a transformation in the way we live, work and relate to one another in the coming years, affecting entire industries and economies, and even challenging our notion of what it means to be human.

So what exactly are these technologies, and what do they mean for us?

Read the Full Article Here: The Fourth Industrial Revolution: The 7 Technologies Changing Our world: When Will the Future “Arrive”?

Four Ways 051416 AAEAAQAAAAAAAAS7AAAAJDgyY2FlNGQ1LWUzY2EtNDQzNS04ODkwLTRmM2MxNWI4YmI1MAFour Ways Innovation Will Drive Change and Business – “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”

Innovation. In today’s business environment, there’s no word more powerful and all-encompassing. Finance, education, healthcare, retail and transportation: No sector is immune. Every day, new companies are introducing technologies that have the potential to reshape entire industries and how people conduct their day-to-day transactions.

All you need to do is look at the success of companies like Uber to realize the scale and scope of the transformation enveloping our world.

The World Economic Forum calls this era of innovation the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In January government and business leaders met in Davos, Switzerland to discuss how to navigate these unprecedented changes. It is a monumental discussion, because the reality is that these regular and system-wide innovations will continue to crack the foundations of traditional industries for years to come. Businesses need to recognize this and make sure that they will be nimble enough to succeed wherever change takes them.

Read the Full Article Here: Four Ways Innovation Will Drive Change and Business – “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”

Fourth Why All 051416 AAEAAQAAAAAAAAg8AAAAJDZiYTBjM2JlLTBlZGMtNDdmYy1hNjdkLTk0NzUyZDFjMGM0MgWhy Everyone Must Get Ready For The 4th Industrial Revolution

First came steam and water power; then electricity and assembly lines; then computerization… So what comes next?

Some call it the fourth industrial revolution, or industry 4.0, but whatever you call it, it represents the combination of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, and the Internet of Systems.

In short, it is the idea of smart factories in which machines are augmented with web connectivity and connected to a system that can visualize the entire production chain and make decisions on its own.

And it’s well on its way and will change most of our jobs.

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, has published a book entitled The Fourth Industrial Revolution in which he describes how this fourth revolution is fundamentally different from the previous three, which were characterized mainly by advances in technology.

In this fourth revolution, we are facing a range of new technologies that combine the physical, digital and biological worlds. These new technologies will impact all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenge our ideas about what it means to be human.

These technologies have great potential to continue to connect billions more people to the web, drastically improve the efficiency of businessand organizations and help regenerate the natural environment through ….

Read the Full Article Here: Why Everyone Must Get Ready For The 4th Industrial Revolution

 

Nanoparticle 2 051316 coated-nanoparticlePreparing For and Embracing the Future

At Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc. it’s been a busy few years! But really … we have only ‘scratched the surface’ of the tidal wave of discoveries being made everyday at leading Nano-Universities around the World! And as exciting as the new technologies and discoveries are … as anyone who has been working in “Nano” recognizes and acknowledges, new Financing Structures, Synergistic Collaborations, Private Industry and Government Partnerships have had to be created to “bring the promise of the new technologies” into our everyday world. And that … that is why we at GNT™ are so excited about our relationships with our Partners, our Technologies and our Approach to sustaining developing “game changing” technologies to Commercial Viability. 

Genesis Nanotechnology shares the vision of those who believe that “nanotechnology” will change the way we innovate everything!

Dr. Richard Smalley, (Nobel Laureate, Smalley Institute – Rice University) asserted over 30 years ago, quote:

“… Most of the BIG problems we now face and will face in the future [Energy, Water, Food Supply and Health] will be solved by the application of “nanotechnology … Expecting Big Things from Small Things.”

We (GNT) also believe, as Dr. Smalley did and as Geoffrey Moore asserted in his book “Crossing the Chasm”

“… that we are now 30+ years into a developing technology (maturation) representing a paradigm shift in technology.” The “Innovators” and the “Early Adopters” are already in the marketplace, engaging new technologies into existing market sectors and industries.”

Fourth Industrial 041516 GWvqS6TuZDSUwlO6uZ8RUNjHjFxtgz0o3MSaRlhp5_oWe believe we are now transitioning from the cycle of The Early Adopters to the cycle of the Early Majority. We believe the explosion of technological capabilities represents an enormous “once in a lifetime” opportunity to be part of the fundamental and revolutionary changes that will redefine and reshape the physical and financial world we live in. Truly then …. “A Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

 

 

cropped-9-disruptive-technologies.jpgHow We Do What We Do

Genesis Nanotechnology actively seeks and evaluates emerging nanotechnology opportunities for Joint Venture Partners and Strategic Alliances that will create ‘enterprise value’ by identifying, developing, integrating and commercializing, nanotechnologies that demonstrate significant new disruptive capabilities, enhance new or existing product performance and/or beneficially impact input cost reductions and efficiency and therefore will achieve a sustainable and competitive advantage in their chosen market sector.

Market and Industry Applications Much like the changes plastics and polymers brought to our world, (making things stronger, cheaper, better) applied Nanomaterials are being integrated into existing markets and are also facilitating emerging products and technologies that are being developed by a very deep field of mature and financially capable companies: Examples: Sony, Sharp, Samsung, Tokyo Electron, IKEA, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline. Literally Nanomaterials will change the way we innovate everything. They will touch almost every aspect in our everyday lives from Nano-Medicine and Consumer Electronics to Energy Solutions and Advanced Fabrics.

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Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc. ~ “Great Things from Small Things”

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Quantum Dots Bring Anti-counterfeiting Tech to 3D Printing


Note to Readers: A lot of you have Commented or E-mailed with a common question about this article, “Who is the new start-up company?” (developing the anti-counterfeiting technology based on Quantum Dots). For more information about the Company, its History, Founders and Technologies visit: Quantum Materials Corporation: Symbol: QTMM

BTW … In a recent press release they just released: Quantum Materials Corp to launch Quantum Dot Production in China with Joint Venture Partner GTG, who has committed $20 Million US in investment.”

Cheers! Team GNT

3D Printed Auto 020516 XMODULE3-1-e1454538456427

Even with all the promise offered by additive manufacturing (AM), some people are still wary of the potential pitfalls exposed by the technology. Leaving the notion of 3D printed guns, hearts and electronics aside, there are very real concerns about how intellectual property (IP) will fare in a digital manufacturing world, or how any single company can protect sales of 3D printed objects. Piracy is often seen as only a 3D scanner and printer away.

 

QD AM Mfg 020516 LEDA company new start-up Nano-materials company may have the solution to some of these concerns. The company is in the business of manufacturing, among other things, quantum dots. These tiny structures are constructed from semiconductor Nano-materials, and can be embedded within 3D printed objects. A partnership with the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the Design, Research, and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems (DREAMS) Laboratory at Virginia Tech has resulted in a method of using quantum dots to act as a sort of fingerprint for objects built using AM.

 

“The remarkable number of variations of semiconductor Nano-materials properties that can be manufactured, coupled with Virginia Tech’s anti-counterfeiting process design, combine to offer corporations extreme flexibility in designing physical cryptography systems to thwart counterfeiters. As 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology advances, its ubiquity allows for the easy pirating of protected designs.” (VP for research and development)

The quantum dots work to foil counterfeiters by creating a unique signature for each item that is only known to the company producing that item. This will allow for rapid recognition of counterfeit items without requiring destructive testing methods.

Additionally, the company offers a number of semiconductor Nano-materials that further increase security. If you are familiar with computing, the addition of unique materials improves security strength in a similar way as moving from 128-bit to 256-bit encryption, according to the company.

With the recent boom in medical AM, both for rapid prototyping and end-use, this type of security can offer companies some assurance that they’ll see a return on investment for all the hard work put in to designing new devices. The use of quantum dots should also reassure other manufacturers who are on the fence about the use of AM that their patents will be upheld by more than a piece of paper and a handshake.

 

 

 

 

As 3D Printing Comes of Age – How will 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing or ‘AM’) Combat Counterfeiting Products?


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The specter of counterfeit products is always a concern for any company that relies on other facilities to actually manufacture and assemble their products. From fake Rolex watches to fake iPhones to fake Louis Vuitton purses, large companies often spend millions to protect their intellectual property from criminals who copy and sell fake products to often unsuspecting consumers.

While it can be easy to be anti-corporate and turn a blind eye to this kind of theft, especially when the companies are large and extremely profitable, their concern goes far beyond the potential loss of profits. The fact is, most counterfeit products are vastly inferior to the real thing, and if a consumer doesn’t know that they are purchasing a fake then the company not only has a lost sale, but their reputation will take a hit based on something that they didn’t even produce.

Even as 3D printing continues to grow into a valid and profitable alternative manufacturing method to injection molding or large-scale mass production, there are still companies that see the threat of counterfeiting as a reason to stall the adoption of 3D printing technology. Realistically there is not much that can be done about pirated 3D models and individuals using home 3D printers to make fake products. Combating individual piracy has been woefully ineffective for the entertainment industry, and probably only encouraged more users to download electronic files illegally. It stands to reason that going after individual pirates will work just as well if the 3D printing industry makes an attempt to over-regulate and control the flow of 3D printable files.

DRM on 3D printable files is probably not going to be an effective deterrent.

Many of the solutions that are being floated as counter-counterfeiting measures don’t really seem especially feasible or sustainable. Adding DRM (digital rights management) or unlock code requirements to 3D files may slow down some users, but just as with DRM efforts on movies and video games, if someone can put a lock on something, someone can take that same lock off and teach others how to do it as well. These efforts may work in the short term, as the pool of users who are capable of breaking DRM on 3D printable files is smaller, and there isn’t really an outlet to disperse those illegal files yet. But as the industry grows it is going to be harder and harder for companies to control their intellectual property using these methods. I’m not really sure that there is much to be done on this end of the industry. Besides, there is an even greater counterfeiting problem brewing on the manufacturing side of the industry and it is far more important than individual piracy ever could be.

Counterfeit bolts.

As with fake mass-produced consumer goods, mass-produced industrial parts are also counterfeited quite frequently. It may be more interesting to talk about fake purses, but a greater threat is products like fake screws, bolts, fittings and individual components. Many of the parts that are used to build our homes, businesses, vehicles and personal electronics use mass-produced components that manufacturers simply purchase in extremely large quantities. And all of those parts are held to very strict manufacturing guidelines that dictate how they can be used, what their maximum stress tolerances are and how they can be expected to perform.

When these types of components are forged, they are rarely made with the same quality of materials and often don’t even come close to performing as required. If these fake parts find their way unknowingly into the hands of manufacturers, who design products with these components’ manufacturing guidelines in mind, then the results could be catastrophic. There have been instances of airplanes and automobiles that have crashed due to the failure of lower quality, counterfeit parts. Buildings and homes are also at risk due to poor quality and counterfeited construction materials being used. It may seem odd, but cheaply made products that do not pass strict regulations are a huge business and lives can be lost to it.

3D printed Nike shoes with embedded InfraStructs.

With 3D printed components becoming more common, and eventually expected to be extremely common, counterfeit parts will pose a real risk. Using DRM, even if it was effective on a small scale, to prevent machines from making unauthorized parts is not going to matter when these parts can simply be 3D scanned and reproduced without the need for the original 3D model. The methods that need to be developed to combat this type of industrial counterfeiting will need to work in ways that DRM never will and identify the specific physical object as authentic. There are a few different methods that are currently being proposed, with varying probabilities of success.

The most likely option will be including RFID tags on 3D printed components that will identify an object as the real thing. The idea is that any part that doesn’t have an embedded RFID device in it — and they can easily be made small enough to easily be inserted inside of a 3D printed part — will automatically be identified as fake. The downside of this method is price, as the RFID tags themselves would be costly, as would the labor involved in inserting them. Testing for tags will also require specialized equipment that adds more cost to the authentication process. It is possible that a 3D printable material that would act as a tag called InfraStructs could be developed, but that would mean developing multiple materials that will be RFID reactive, which will be quite costly on the development side.

Subsurface fingerprinting with InfraTrac.

Another authentication option would be chemically tagging materials that can be detected with a handheld spectrometer. There are multiple companies providing these types of materials, but the most promising is a technique developed by InfraTrac. The Maryland-based company has developed a chemical that can be discreetly added to virtually anything without altering the chemical makeup of the material. For instance, parts can be 3D printed with a small subsurface “fingerprint” hidden in a discrete location. That mark alone would be printed with the material that has been treated with the chemical, and would easily identify the part as genuine. The material could also be printed as a single layer of the print with no mark, and no risk of altering the integrity of the part. Of course again this comes with it the need for specialized equipment in the form of the spectrometer and an actual machine that can 3D print with the standard material and the second, tagged material.

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3D Printed Model of a Human Heart

One thing is very clear, there is a desire for additive manufacturing to be developed as an alternative to other mass production methods. That means the companies looking to use 3D printing to manufacture parts, and the 3D printing industry itself, are going to need to address the problem sooner rather than later. Determining which of these options is the ideal solution will not be an easy choice, as they both bring with them additional costs and challenges, but doing nothing simply isn’t an option.

 

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Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc. ~ “Great Things from Small Things”

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Rice University: Laser-induced graphene: Scalable Nano-Electronics


Graphene defectsarepeResearchers at Rice University have created flexible, patterned sheets of multilayer graphene from a cheap polymer by burning it with a computer-controlled laser. The process works in air at room temperature and eliminates the need for hot furnaces and controlled environments, and it makes graphene that may be suitable for electronics or energy storage.

Under a microscope, what the researchers call laser-induced (LIG) doesn’t look like a perfect chicken wire-like grid of atoms. Instead, it’s a jumble of interconnected graphene flakes with five-, six- and seven-atom rings. The paired five- and seven-atom rings are considered defects – but in this case, they’re not. They’re features.

The material can be made in detailed patterns. For show-and-tell, the Rice team patterned millimeter-sized LIG Owls (the school’s mascot), and for practical testing they fabricated microscale supercapacitors with LIG electrodes in one-step scribing.

The labs of Rice chemist James Tour and theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson published their research online today in Nature Communications.Rice logo_rice3

The one-step process is scalable, said Tour, who suggested it could allow for rapid roll-to-roll manufacture of nanoscale electronics.

“This will be good for items people can relate to: clothing and wearable electronics like smartwatches that configure to your smartphone,” he said.

This top-down approach to making graphene is quite different from previous works by Tour’s lab, which pioneered the small-scale manufacture of the atom-thick material from common carbon sources, even Girl Scout cookies, and learned to split multiwalled nanotubes into useful graphene nanoribbons.

But as in the previous work, the base material for LIG is inexpensive. “You buy polyimide flexible plastic sheets in huge rolls, called Kapton, and the process is done entirely in air with a rapid writing process. That sets it up for a very scalable, industrial process,” Tour said.

Graphene microsupercapacitors were created in polymer with a laser at Rice University’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. The room-temperature process makes graphene that may be suitable for electronics or energy storage. Credit: Tour Group/Rice University

The product is not a two-dimensional slice of graphene but a porous foam of interconnected flakes about 20 microns thick. The laser doesn’t cut all the way through, so the foam remains attached to a manageable, insulating, flexible plastic base.

The process only works with a particular polymer. The researchers led by Jian Lin, a former postdoctoral research in the Tour Group and now an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, tried 15 different polymers and found only two could be converted to LIG. Of those, polyimide was clearly the best.

Tour said the resulting graphene isn’t as conductive as copper, but it doesn’t need to be. “It’s conductive enough for many applications,” he said.

He said LIG can easily be turned into a supercapacitor, which combines the fast-charging, power-storing capacity of a capacitor with the higher energy-delivering capability, though not yet as high as in a battery. The defects could be the key, Tour said.

Defects are perfect in laser-induced graphene
A scanning electron microscope shows a close-up of laser-induced graphene foam produced by researchers at Rice University. The scale bar for the main image is 10 microns; the bar for the inset is 1 micron. Credit: Tour Group/Rice University

“A normal sheet of graphene is full of six-member rings,” he said. “Once in a while you see a meandering line of 5-7s, but this new material is filled with 5-7s. It’s a very unusual structure, and these are the domains that trap electrons. Had it just been normal (highly conductive) graphene, it couldn’t store a charge.”

Calculations by Yakobson’s group showed that these balancing five-and-seven formations make the material more metallic and enhance its ability to store charges.

Defects are perfect in laser-induced graphene
This finely detailed Rice Owl was produced by burning a graphene foam pattern into a flexible polyimide sheet with a laser. The multilayered graphene that results from the process may be suitable for energy storage or electronics. The scale …more

“Theoretical methods and density functional computations allowed us to look inside the electronic energy states’ organization,” Yakobson said. “What we discovered is that the very low density of available states—which is crucial for the layer capacitance—increases dramatically, due to various topological defects, mainly pentagonal and heptagonal rings.

“The fact that highly defective graphene performs so well is a freebie, a gift from nature,” he said.

Miguel José Yacaman, chairman of the Department of Physics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, contributed his expertise in transmission electron microscope imaging to confirm the existence of so many defects.

A Rice University lab is using a laser to write graphene microsupercapacitors in a common polymer material. The laser removes nearly everything but carbon from a 20-micron layer, leaving behind porous graphene foam that may be suitable for …more

“We have what is called aberration-corrected microscopy, which allows us to see the defects,” Yacaman said. “The resolution is below 1 angstrom, basically 70 picometers (trillionths of a meter), and that’s what you need to really look at single atoms.”

Tour’s lab used the machine shop lasers at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen to create their robust microsupercapacitors. The best results showed capacitance of more than 4 millifarads per square centimeter and power density of about 9 milliwatts per square centimeter, comparable to other carbon-based microsupercapacitors, and negligible degradation after as many as 9,000 charge/discharge cycles. This capacitance is sufficient for inexpensive wearable electronic devices, and Tour said his group continues to make improvements.

He said the lab didn’t start out looking for LIG. “Everything converged. Nature can be a hard taskmaster, but once in a while, she gives you something much better than what you had asked for. Or expected.”

Explore further: Hybrid nanotube-graphene material promises to simplify manufacturing

More information: Nature Communications, dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms6714

Smart Clothing: PV-Powered Future Fabrics


Smart CL images** From NanoMarkets LC ** Just in time for the holidays, for that technophile-slash-fashonista in your life: Tommy Hilfiger’s new $599 solar panel jacket, which combines a removable solar pack with “prestigious Abraham Moon wool for a traditional twist,” the designer proclaims. The jacket incorporates several snap-off amorphous silicon (a-Si) solar panels on its back (from supplier Pvilion), hooked to a battery pack in the front pocket with a double USB port.

The companies claim the solar panels can fully charge this battery, which itself can fully charge a standard 1500 mAh mobile device up to four times. Rather importantly they don’t say how long that would take, though the battery also can be charged by laptop or external outlet.

So far the general Internet response to the solar-powered jacket has largely been head-scratching curiosity and “what won’t they dream up next.” Nevertheless, a month into their trial debut the jackets appear to be in demand with limited remaining availability. More broadly, we see this as one of the more visible recent examples of the next trend in consumer electronic devices: truly wearable electronics, or “smart clothing.”

Wearable Electronics and Smart Clothing

The two earliest types of wearable computing concepts have been smart watches and smart glasses, both of which basically move smartphone functionalities into a wearable context. Most of the smart glasses being developed arguably go a step further to mesh communications capabilities with additional visual and other sensual enhancements (including augmented reality), and in a much more visible profile.

Ultimately, true wearable computing will evolve to be more than a device worn or strapped to (or even someday implanted within) the body — it will be integrated into clothing itself. Thus, “smart clothing” blurs the lines between fabrics and electronics with items that merge with the body of the wearer in both form and functionality. These incorporate various computing devices and sensors and energy harvesting — and even fabrics that incorporate some of those capabilities themselves — for various kinds of applications, from fitness metrics to pregnancy monitoring, even biochemical hazard protection.

The Hilfiger jacket isn’t the only solar-powered clothing we’ve seen. Other examples include:

  • Pauline van Dongen created wearable solar clothing in 2013: a dress with 72 flexible solar cells and a coat with 48 rigid solar cells. Each was said to be capable of charging a smartphone to 50% over an hour in full sunshine.
  • LLBean’s Solar PowerCap has a solar panel in the brim to charge a (non-replaceable) NIMH battery and power four LED lights, “even if it’s not in direct sunlight.” A full charge is said to provide more than 21 hours of light.
  • The ILLUM cycling jacket concept incorporates printed electroluminescent ink and printed photovoltaic technology, with the functional parts placed outside the jacket and into several ergonomic panels.

Solar: Powering the Smart Clothing Revolution

Those sensing functionalities, plus the connectivity to collect and consolidate data to make sense of it all, involve some fairly significant power consumption. Energy to power smart clothing could come from a variety of sources: a small solar panel, an antenna that collects ambient radio wave energy, a thermoelectric material that absorbs body heat, or piezoelectric devices that collect energy from movement.

Thus NanoMarkets sees energy harvesting and power generation technologies combined with energy storage systems as the next step in developing practical wearable electronics, complementing one another and demonstrating ways to charge smart textiles without having to “plug in” the garment.

A key factor in any “smart clothing” is that the technology lends itself to wearability, i.e. flexible and lightweight. Also (and rather obviously) the small area afforded by clothing presents a challenge for any kind of energy generation.

Thus this is a market for alternative solar PV technologies to shine. NanoMarkets suggests that organic PV ultimately is a prime material choice for PV on fabric, as it can be produced on large-area, low-cost plastic planar substrates. Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSC) also are emerging as a contender.

The formfactor lends best to flexible lightweight thin-film technologies which by their nature have lower efficiencies, and in a small available surface area. In the past, research efforts have attempted to bridge these gaps:

  • Sefar (Switzerland) has developed a transparent front electrode on a fabric base for flexible solar cells. The synthetic fabric is coated on one side with a gas-tight, transparent layer; it offers light transmittance of over 85%, and can be processed using the roll-to-roll method. The conductivity in the fabric is created by means of woven-in metal wires (R < 1 Ω/sq).
  • The EU-funded research project Dephotex (2008-2011) worked to demonstrate flexible solar cells that can be readily integrated into fabrics, identifying suitable materials for the solar cells and different techniques for implanting them into the fabric. Despite needed improvements to conversion efficiency and flexibility, a number of companies are said to have expressed interest in collaborating with Dephotex to commercialize photovoltaic fabrics.
  • Researchers at Beijing National Laboratory for Molecular Sciences (January 2013) have integrated power fiber for energy conversion and storage, utilizing a highly flexible solar cell fiber and pseudocapacitive fiber employing redox polyaniline that converts and stores solar energy in one device.
  • China’s Fudan University has developed a new method to produce flexible, wearable DSC textiles by stacking two textile electrodes.
  • PowerFilm Solar uses fabric (among other materials) as non-traditional backing for solar panels, from portable chargers up to a canopy-size foldable shelter.
  • The U.S. Army and MC10 have collaborated to scale up stretchable solar panel prototypes and assess their efficiency as functional battery chargers, including flexible solar energy harvesters sewn into uniforms and backpacks.

Remember the Consumer

Before planning your wardrobe around powered “smart clothing,” we urge everyone to remember the biggest question about this sector: end-market appeal. While the current generation of smart glasses do seem to be gaining momentum in some industrial use cases, the general consensus so far (especially about Google Glass) is that they look strange when they are worn — meaning they’re a non-starter for consumer market appeal. Newer entrants are promising more understated styles much closer to “normal” glasses as possible, even if it means reducing their functionality (and price-point).

The lesson: any hope to blend electronics functionality into a truly wearable context, targeting beyond niche applications such as military into the large volumes (and large revenues) promised with broad consumer adoption, must demonstrate a clear usage case on top of style considerations. Solar-powered fabrics are not easy to wear; they must incorporate a robust design (perhaps Hilfiger’s choice of wool helps here), and the purpose of integrating PV has to be clearly highlighted in the product’s design. Bulky, unattractive clothing won’t be appealing to anyone in a mass-market context. As a counterexample, we recall the proposed Solar Coterie “solar bikini” design that incorporated strips of flexible solar cells. This would seem not only difficult to wear, but rather counterintuitive to combine electricity with clothing meant to be immersed in water!

Fashion designers are key to the success of any fashionable clothing, and their interest in smart clothing is very important for the introduction and success of the smart fashion sector. For now, we observe that fashion designers prefer illuminated clothing and sound-reactive products in their offerings, which represents a very niche and smaller market. However, we are starting to see indications that designers would prefer clothing that incorporates energy storage and health sensing, which will result in greater penetration of smart clothing in fashion.

NanoMarkets does see a bright future for smart clothing with built-in energy harvesting and storage, particularly solar. Although it’s in infancy at the moment, we see this gradually growing in time.

Nano coatings for textiles and nonwovens: The future is NOW


AAA 1 smart_textiles_and_nanotechnologies_applicationsNanex Company, a Belgian nano coating manufacturer, is helping shape the future by offering unique nano technology based solutions that transform textiles and nonwovens, giving them a whole range of desirable new properties.

Scientific and commercial research into nanopolymer technology, polymers or copolymers with nanoparticles or nanofillers dispersed in the polymer matrix, has exploded since its discovery less than a decade ago and today there are many applications for nanopolymers both in industry and in consumer markets. From medical devices to cars and now textiles and clothing, the technology, which is invisible to the human eye, is now all around us.

One avenue of research, development and commercialization of nanopolymers is in the nano coatings industry where nanopolymer coatings can impart amazing new properties to materials, increasing their effectiveness whilst decreasing their maintenance time and cost.

Nano coatings form a protective barrier for delicate surfaces preventing scratching and other environmental hazards. © Nanex Company

When nanopolymer coatings are sprayed onto a surface, extraordinary things can happen. The most common use is rendering a material superhydrophobic, or completely water and oil repellent. This also offers a secondary benefit preventing the accumulation of water, which is a food source for bacteria and fungi, prohibiting growth in the protected area. Nano coatings also form a protective barrier for delicate surfaces preventing scratching and other environmental hazards.

So, whether you are looking to protect your favourite outfit from coffee stains, your shiny shoes from mud or salt damage, or to keep your car looking like it has just been washed, nanopolymer coatings could offer the perfect solution.

Commercialising nanotechnology breakthroughs and inventions

As a nano coating manufacturer headquartered in Maldegem, Belgium, Nanex Company is a young and innovative organisation specializing in the commercialization of nanotechnology breakthroughs and inventions, whose first and flagship products are based on protective coating technologies incorporating special nanoparticles, which have cleaning and protective properties.

The East Flanders based nano coating manufacturer company says that it is the ease of use of its products that ensures that they are optimized for both consumer and industrial use. The company’s main objective is to improve product properties and provide eco-friendly solutions for a wide array of needs in multiple markets.

Nanex coatings are universal and can be applied to all natural fibre based fabrics as well as man-made fibre based fabrics. © Nanex Company

As the entrepreneur and Nanex CEO Aaron Claeys puts it: “We strive to go deeper and combine advanced chemistry with discoveries in the field of nanotechnology, which can benefit or improve our everyday life and environment. As a nano coating manufacturer, our work is always aimed at the most ecological way to attain the best results possible in our product properties.”

“We strive to create more value for society and evolutionary building blocks to push barriers in what we call new age technology.”

Always Dry

Take Nanex’ Always Dry product for example. Always Dry is a superhydrophobic water repellent spray from the company’s expanding nanotechnology product line which has been developed for a wide range of applications. According to Nanex, Always Dry protects all absorbent surfaces, including textiles, leathers, wood and stone against fluids and stains of any density.

Always Dry formulas contain nanopolymers, which form an invisible protection layer. © Nanex Company

Always Dry formulas contain nanopolymers, which bond at a molecular level with any absorbent surface and form an invisible protection layer with highly hydrophobic properties. Any fluid in contact with the treated surface cannot adhere to it  – it simply beads and rolls off, the company says.

Nanex claims the following advantages for Always Dry:

  • Provides immediate and long term protection
  • No change in colour, texture or breathability of the surface
  • Safe and easy to use
  • High penetration provides protection below the surface
  • Leaves any surface or finished article looking like new for a long time
  • Reduction in cleaning times and frequency of cleaning
  • UV protection prevents the treated surface changing colour
  • Reduction in need for detergents or cleaning agents for surface maintenance
  • Protection against acid rain and pollution

For the protection of textiles and leathers two Always Dry formulas are available, one water based and the other solvent based.

Feedback on nano coatings for textiles and nonwovens

As a superhydrophobic and nano coating manufacturer, Nanex is keen to share some of the insights it has recently received in the way of feedback from the textiles industry as well as some developments it has carried out to date to meet the requirements of protecting textiles at the highest level.

Nano coatings for textiles that create superhydrophobic surfaces or extreme water repellent surfaces are very visual, but according to Aaron Claeys, people are often stuck at that point and it is important to fully understand the technology in this particular use.

“The coatings are known for a high repellent angle of 150 degrees and above and that is how the water beads off faster and easier than the more traditional waterproofing products,” says Claeys.

Because the coating thickness is below the micro range, they are invisible and keep the flexibility of the textiles. © Nanex Company

“Of course these products also have limitations and that is the case if we are working with breathable, non-closing protective layers although it still provides the highest protection.  As well as the best beading effect, we saw some other interesting points that could improve and change the industry with our latest developments,” says Aaron Claeys.

The main factors highlighted in textiles industry feedback for Nanex products are water repellence, easy cleaning, invisibility and the fact that they can be universally applied to all kinds of fibres. Nanex explains:

Water & Oil repellence

The extra oil repellence offered by Nanex’ technology creates wider potential use and a better protective layer then standard water repellent products. Here, Nanex is thinking about workwear, gloves and other items that are exposed to oil which damage the fabrics.

Easy cleaning

Because the coating is on a nanometric scale it is wrapped around each individual fibre and stains and liquids cannot damage the fibres and are more easily removed.

Invisibility

Because the coating thickness is below the micro range, they are invisible and keep the flexibility of the textiles and feel or handle intact.

Universal

Nanex coatings are universal and can be applied to all natural fibre based fabrics as well as man-made fibre based fabrics, making them useful for al kinds of technical textiles and nonwovens.

Cost effective solutions

Nanex says that interest in nano coating textiles and nonwovens has significantly increased in popularity over the last few years. Aaron Claeys explains: “We see that in this industry, like many other commodities, the price and application is often a stumbling block for the products to enter the market sufficiently and reach their full potential.”

“However, we found a solution to implement a concentrated form of our product inside the production line of different textile manufacturers.”

Application for producers

“For example, for fabric or apparel manufacturers, this can be done at the rinsing phase. The product is diluted with the rinsing water before drying.”

The coating is wrapped around each individual fibre, so stains and liquids cannot damage the fibres and are more easily removed. © Nanex Company

Nanex finishes can also be applied in a bath or dip coating process and other tested methods used for example by shoe manufacturers include spraying.

“But curtains, carpets, and furniture producers all have the opportunity to implement this coating in their production process. We see this as customer service to guide every client to a successful application process,” Aaron Claeys adds.

Nanex is also currently doing tests during the weaving of textiles where it can install a bath with product, which fabric goes through and is heated and directly activated after the weaving process.

First mover advantage

Claeys is keen to talk about first mover advantage for producers of textiles and nonwovens: “Now that we covered how these innovative superhydrophobic nano coatings can be used and applied in our current systems, we know that first movers or clients who are able to get on the train first will have a tremendous competitive advantage. Textile manufacturers can expect an increase in sales and have new marketing and selling opportunities.”

– See more at: http://www.innovationintextiles.com/nano-coatings-for-textiles-and-nonwovens-the-future-is-now/#sthash.R7hOztun.dpuf

Graphene 3D Lab to Purchase Canadian 3D Printer Maker ‘Boots Industries’


Graphene-Labs-battery-1024x509Graphene 3D Lab Inc. has inked a deal to acquire Boots Industries Inc., a Canadian 3D printer manufacturer. Graphene 3D says that they intend to purchase all Boots Industries’ assets — and to hire the team at Boots Industries — in an all share transaction. Ted Edwards · December 9, 2014

The company says the deal will see the Boots Industries team work to create a proprietary 3D printer capable of printing functional and electronic devices to optimize and maximize performance of Graphene 3D’s functional printing materials.

Boots Industries Printer

Founded in 2012, Boots Industries emerged as a player in the Canadian 3D printing market with their BI V2.0, a large-volume 3D printer.

“The goal of Graphene 3D is to introduce a 3D printing ecosystem, including a 3D printer and functional materials, capable of printing operational and electronic devices,” says Daniel Stolyarov, CEO of Graphene 3D. “The team at Boots Industries have been successful to date in the development and sale of high-quality 3D printers, and we have the utmost confidence in their teams’ capabilities to develop a multi-material printer optimized for Graphene 3D materials.”

Jean Le Bouthillier, CEO of Boots Industries, said his company is enthusiastic about the opportunity to develop a 3D printer capable of printing operational devices with functional materials

“The entire Boots Industries team is looking forward to working within the Graphene 3D team on the next revolution in 3D printing,” Le Bouthillier said of the deal.

The two companies have signed an exclusive letter of intent for the transaction. The terms of the deal call for an all-share transaction capped at a valuation of $500,000 CA in common shares, that the Boots Industries’ development team will join Graphene Lab’s R&D team and it’s thought that a definitive agreement will be inked during the first quarter of 2015.

graphene 3d labGraphene 3D Lab develops, manufactures, and markets proprietary, graphene-based nanocomposite materials for various types of 3D printing. The Graphene 3D Lab facility is located in Calverton, NY and it’s equipped with material processing and analytical equipment which the company uses to complete work which has resulted in three US patent applications pending for its technology.

Boots Industries, located in Quebec City, Canada, develops fused filament fabrication, delta 3D printers for retail sale. The company’s BI V2.5 3Dboots industries printer offers an optional triple-head extruder.

Graphene promises to be the forefront material in a drive to create functional electronic devices with 3D printing technology. Will Canadian firms, with their access to graphene resources, dominate the electronics printing market? Will Graphene 3D Lab’s acquisition today quicken their pace of innovation within the field of graphene 3D printing? Weigh in on the discussion in the Graphene 3D Lab & Boots Industries thread on 3DPB.com.

A Graphene 3D Labs printed battery undergoing testing.

Graphene-Labs-battery-1024x509