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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > NanotechnologyKTN > NanoKTN Graphene Workshop Reports and Recommendations

Fiona Brewer
NanoKTN

Abstract:
At the end of 2013, the NanoKTN held two graphene workshops: Building the Supply Chain for Graphene for Electrical and Electronic Applications, hosted by the IOP in London, and a Graphene and Nanofillers for Composites Workshop hosted by the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol.

The aim of both workshops was to consult with industry on the development of graphene, the potential opportunities for UK SMEs, and to offer recommendations for government in terms of funding.

March 12th, 2014

NanoKTN Graphene Workshop Reports and Recommendations

Building the Supply Chain for Graphene for Electrical and Electronic Applications Workshop

Dr Alec Reader, Director of the NanoKTN introduced the workshop with an aim for potential partners to collaborate in order to build groups/consortia for the development of graphene and other 2D materials technology. This meeting was specifically looking at the electrical and electronic applications and kicked off a set of discussions looking at different aspects of graphene technology and supply chains.

Representatives from 11 businesses ranging in size and stage along the supply chain gave presentations regarding their activities. Each of the speakers had been asked to consider the opportunities that could arise from graphene, their current activities in this area, commercialisation challenges, and the next steps for their businesses.

Speakers from the world of display and plastic electronics including Plastic Logic, BAE Systems, Printed Electronics, and a number of photovoltaic and LED companies, covered the needs from potential end users. This was followed by presentations from supply chain companies presenting their thoughts on graphene and included Oxford Instruments, Oxford Lasers, Haydale, Applied Graphene Materials and Gasplas AS. The most common potential application from amongst the speakers present was by using graphene as a conductive layer, in place of indium tin oxide. However, this is not without its commercialisation challenges. These issues in turn impact the cost/efficiency trade off that must be addressed as companies determine whether investing in graphene is worth it.

All of the groups also commented that it was difficult to put a number on the market sizes, either in the UK or globally in part due to the numerous components that need to be considered. But potential markets include energy capture and storage, plastic electronics and thermal management.

The business models that could be adopted by those looking to invest in the graphene market were considered and could either involve out-sourcing one or more steps to a specialist company in order to cover the capital costs, or reduce initial outlay by using refurbished equipment. Integration of graphene technology increases the complexity of manufacturing therefore identification of the correct supply chain is vital. This could help to drive down costs as they are considered before manufacture and not after. Currently the companies that have enjoyed the greatest financial profits from graphene are the materials, instrument and equipment manufacturers.

Discussing the potential barriers in the supply chain and barriers to industrialisation, representatives called for a need for standardisation of nomenclature so that customers know what they are getting, along with an explanation of the physics of the different types i.e. graphene platelets verses flakes. There were further discussions regarding how the materials properties may change when moving to large-scale production and how to measure the materials properties as it is being produced. There was a suggestion of having a database with information of this kind in. This also extends to health, safety and environmental considerations and regulations by those working with graphene and other 2D materials.

There are still some technical barriers to overcome regarding the removal of graphene from the substrate it has been grown up. For example when deposited on copper, the copper must be etched away before the graphene can then be laid onto another substrate which is both time and energy intensive. Furthermore there are challenges around how to adhere and contact graphene, especially to plastic films.

There could be a place for a graphene road-map at a European level covering all the TRL levels. The UK could benefit further if this was supported not just by the current Government but all Members of Parliament to ensure long-term support. This in turn may give companies the support they need to also think long-term and therefore they may be willing to pursue ventures that have a slightly higher risk factor than they are currently.

The need for a "killer application" to get graphene technology into mass market to demonstrate to both commercial enterprises and the public the value of graphene could be invaluable to the uptake of 2D materials by the public. This however could come from a number of different sectors including the toy and games market which is one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors.

Graphene and Nanofillers for Composites Workshop

This Workshop was held to develop an industry perspective on nanocomposites, to provide a forum for information exchange, and to consult industry on future needs for UK commercialisation of nanocomposites and to consider the potential applications.

The UK is investing significantly in graphene, and nanocomposites are being used in a growing number of diverse applications. With the significant recent developments in nanofillers such as graphene, and improved understanding and developments in processing techniques such as dispersion and functionalisation, the workshop discussed with industry how the UK polymers, composites and high performance engineering industries can best engage with nanocomposites to seek competitive advantage.

Dr Martin Kemp, Theme Manager at the NanoKTN, chaired the event and explained that its aims were to assist in industry engagement and to inform future government funding which might fast-track the technology. From industry feedback given at the workshop, the NanoKTN, along with National Composites Centre, Materials KTN, and Cambridge Nanomaterials Technology, has also been able to publish a number of key findings and recommendations.

A key recommendation agreed by the delegates was the need for integration of the UK supply chain to realise the potential value of nanocomposites with government funding ‘Grand Challenge' type integrated projects involving the whole supply chain and two-stage proposals allowing integration of ‘initial' proposals into larger consortia.

It was also recommended that the UK needs a coordinated exploitation plan for nanocomposites with the establishment of a Nanocomposites Working Group which can interface with other national composites committees with an aim to ensure that nanocomposites are an integral part of the National Composites Strategy 2014 of the Composites Leadership Forum.

Recommended aims of this working group would include the setting up of a UK nanocomposites network with a link to industry committees such as the Composites Leadership Forum and Automotive Council etc., which would have a coordinating role in developing the necessary supply chain and to pull together groups involved in existing research and projects. It was also recommended that a nanocomposites properties database was set up involving organisations such as the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

Finally, as standards and regulations are important drivers or barriers to future development of the nanocomposites industry, the report further recommends that resources be directed to coordinate and represent the UK position and provide advice to industry involving NPL, IOM and other industry bodies.

For further information about the NanoKTN Graphene Workshop reports or the NanoKTN, please visit NanoKTN or email .

Graphene Special Interest Group (SIG): In January 2014, the Graphene SIG was set up with funding from the Technology Strategy Board. The Graphene SIG will bring together participants in a range of graphene based activities and will provide leadership and a focal point for the exploitation of graphene by UK industry, and a concerted resource to help connect and align the developing UK graphene value chain. The initial activity of the Graphene SIG will focus on supporting the Technology Strategy Board funding competition for feasibility studies: "Realising the graphene revolution". The Technology Strategy Board and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) are investing up to £2.5m in feasibility studies to accelerate commercial applications in the novel material, graphene. It will include related carbon-based, two-dimensional nanotechnologies that have recently emerged from the science base. More information on the Graphene SIG can be found at Graphene SIG


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