THE potential of "wonder material" graphene has pricked up the ears of Consett chemical manufacturer Thomas Swan.
The strongest and most conductive material known to man has a variety of possible uses in areas including electronics, plastics and thermoelectric materials. Which is why the company is funding a four-year research programme into how to develop a scalable manufacturing process.
The £625,000 collaboration with the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices at Trinity College Dublin will look how to create consistent, high purity graphene for industrial production. At present, there is no recognised method for producing high purity graphene industrially.
Thomas Swan was set up in 1926, and exports to over 80 countries worldwide. Its advanced materials division already manufactures materials such as high-purity single-wall carbon nanotubes.
Thomas Swan’s managing director Harry Swan said: “Graphene is a fascinating material and our aim, as it was with carbon nanotubes, is to provide a stable and consistent source of true graphene to academia and industry as downstream research develops future commercial applications.
“CRANN and Professor Coleman’s team at Trinity College Dublin were a clear choice as the centre of excellence for us to approach and I look forward to developing a scalable production route of true, high purity graphene.
“We are anticipating initial lab samples within the next few months and will invite interested parties to assess our material as soon as it is available.”
CRANN’s research in this area is led by Professor Jonathan Coleman, and a Thomas Swan engineer will be placed with the team for two years.
Professor Coleman said: “I am delighted with our partnership with Thomas Swan as it will lead to the commercialisation of my research.
“This will ultimately result in the production of graphene on an industrial scale, which we believe can compete with silicon for use in electronics and can contribute to an explosion in the development of a range of new materials.”