If you believe the hype, graphene is the wonder material that we’ve been waiting for and will completely revolutionize, well, everything. We’ve been told that graphene will alter the way that we store energy, manufacture personal electronics and revolutionize the development of super strong composite materials. But so far very little has managed to be made of it to test those assertions. Mainly because currently it isn’t especially easy to make graphene, and doing so in large quantities would be absurdly expensive and produce a large amount of of toxic waste byproducts.
That might just be changing however, as one of the first companies to explore the potential of graphene has just filed for a non-provisional patent for a new process for the preparation and separation of atomic layers of graphene. The patent was filed by Graphene 3D Lab Inc., which has been exploring the creation of various 3D printable filaments using the super strong material for a few years now. Graphene 3D Lab’s non-provisional patent claims priority to a filed provisional patent application from October; patent application number 62/058,313 was filed nearly one year ago by Graphene Laboratories.
They recently made the rather bold move of purchasing the company that they were spun out from, and the patent filing will, as part of this action, be assigned to Graphene 3D Lab. If the new patent filed by Graphene 3D Lab involves the ability to apply graphene properties to 3D printing filaments than that at the time odd move suddenly makes a tremendous about of sense. Currently Graphene 3D Lab produces a conductive 3D printing filament with a small amount of graphene in it, but this new process could lead to several new graphene filament types.
Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of information about the process being patented and what it entails, but it does look like it will involve a method for the rapid production of high-grade graphene on a large scale. Graphene 3D Lab says that the process is an energy efficient way of sorting and classifying graphene nanoparticles that will be non chemically invasive and produce no toxic byproducts. Specifically, the process separates nanoscale particles of graphite that consist of small stacks of graphene about one to fifteen nanometers thick called graphene nanoplatelets (GNP). When the particle is combined with the correct mix of polymers, the resulting composite materials will alter the properties of the plastics and give them barrier properties that can make them as tough as most refined metals.
“The business implications associated with this filing are significant and near term. The extraordinary qualities of graphene has positioned it as one of the most sought after materials in research and development since its discovery in 2004. However up to now, the high-cost of quality material has generally restricted its use to R&D labs. We are changing that and look forward to offering these benefits to our client base and to others who will now utilize graphene into mainstream manufacturing,” explained Graphene 3D Lab inc Co-Chief Executive Officer Elena Polyakova.
The current process of manufacturing high-quality graphene is a very manual and intensive process that consumes a lot of energy and requires a large amount of toxic chemicals to complete. This makes the large-scale manufacturing of the material difficult and any possible consumer applications would be far too expensive to create viable products. Graphene 3D Lab’s new process however is described as a toxic free, low-cost, low-energy, mostly automated method of producing and classifying highly pure graphene nanoplatelets. If the production method is everything that Graphene 3D Lab says that it is, affordable raw graphene would be a highly-sought after material with uses in a wide variety of markets and industries.
“Accompanying our patent application, the Company has produced a bench-top working prototype of our manufacturing and classification technology. Over the next 12 months we intend to manufacture and put in place a scaled-up operation. We expect our unique combination of high-quality, low-cost graphene will significantly impact the commercial marketplace, and will allow an ever widening variety of manufacturers to consider incorporating the extraordinary qualities of graphene in wide range of materials from batteries to consumer electronics to plastics,” said Graphene 3D Lab Inc Co-Chief Executive Officer Daniel Stolyarov.
Graphene 3D Lab Inc currently runs the Graphene Supermarket, one of the largest graphene markets in the world. Through their supermarket, they already have a who’s who list of graphene customers, including NASA, Ford Motor Co., GE, Apple, Xerox, Samsung, Harvard University, IBM and Stanford University. As the first manufacturer of an inexpensive graphene material, this patent would place them in position to virtually corner the graphene market entirely.
Is this an advance which could be a breakthrough for the graphene space? Let’s hear your thoughts on the 3D Printed Atomic Graphene forum thread on 3DPB.com.