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Irish breakthrough in production of graphene – AMBER research team develops a production process with the potential for industrialisation

Prof Jonathan Coleman, AMBER – Trinity College

Researchers at the AMBER materials science centre headquartered at Trinity College Dublin, have developed a new method of producing large quantities of high quality graphene.

Graphene is a form of pure carbon that is one atom thick. The material has important physical qualities for the computing and electronics industries. It is extremely light and stronger than steel, yet incredibly flexible and extremely electrically conductive.

The discovery has the potential to change the way many consumer and industrial products are manufactured. The materials will have a multitude of potential applications, according to AMBER, including advanced food packaging, high strength plastics, foldable touch screens for mobile phones and laptops, super-protective coatings for wind turbines and ships, faster broadband and batteries with dramatically higher capacity than anything available today.

Thomas Swan Ltd. has worked with the AMBER research team for two years and has signed a license agreement to scale up production and make the high quality graphene available to industry globally. The company has already announced two new products as a result of the research discovery, Elicarb Graphene Powder and Elicarb Graphene Dispersion.

Previously, researchers had been unable to produce graphene of high quality in large quantities. The subject of on-going international research, the research undertaken by AMBER is the first to perfect a large-scale production of pristine graphene materials and has been highlighted by the prestigious Nature Materials publication as a global breakthrough.

Professor Jonathan Coleman and his team used a simple method for transforming flakes of graphite into defect-free graphene using commercially available tools, such as high-shear mixers. They demonstrated that not only could graphene-containing liquids be produced in standard lab-scale quantities of a few 100 millilitres, but the process could be scaled up to produce 100s of litres and beyond.

“This shows how industry and academic collaboration can lead to research of the highest calibre, with real commercial applications,” said Prof Coleman, AMBER. “This paper combines basic and applied research and contains elements of physics, chemistry, materials science and chemical engineering. It brings together academic expertise with the wealth of experience provided by Dr Keith Paton, Thomas Swan’s researcher who is working with us here on-site in AMBER. Graphene has been identified as a life changing material and to be involved at this stage of development is a wonderful achievement”.

“Professor Coleman’s discovery shows that Ireland has won the worldwide race on the production of this ‘miracle material’,” said Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock, TD. “This is something that USA, China, Australia, UK, Germany and other leading nations have all been striving for and have not yet achieved. This announcement shows how the Irish Government’s strategy of focusing investment in science with impact, as well as encouraging industry and academic collaboration, is working.”

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