Monday, December 5, 2016

News: Metalysis delivers graphene

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Metalysis has successfully synthesised the "wonder metal" graphene at its Rotherham facility using its innovative electrochemical process.

The Manvers company holds the worldwide exploitation rights to the FCC Cambridge process which sees specialist powder metals created in a simple, cost effective process with significant environmental benefits. It is in the process of commercialising the technology to produce titanium, tantalum, and related high value alloys. These are used increasingly by major worldwide industries such as aerospace, marine, medical, chemical, automotive and electronics.

Backed by investors and grants, the Cambridge University spin out recently secured £20m and confirmed plans to take a 22,000 sq ft unit on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) to create a process facility. It is also planning to scale up production of titanium at its Farfield Park premises.

Graphene is light, 200 times stronger than steel, but it is incredibly flexible. It is the thinnest material possible as well as being transparent. Metalysis filed for its graphene breakthrough in February 2016.

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Single layer ("monolayer") sheets of graphene have been synthesised at the company's industrial processing facilities in the Dearne Valley, as well as bilayer and low multi-layer amalgamations. A collective of scientists continues to focus on differentiating and separating the single atom width, highly lucrative sheets. This comprises research teams from the University of Manchester, the University of Sheffield, the University of Kent and Camborne School of Mines.

Graphene is expected to revolutionise a host of future applications across a wide range of sectors including light materials (aerospace and automotive), semiconductors, energy electrodes, nanotechnology and printable inks.

The main challenge lies in manufacturing large quantities of graphene, in various formats, and at an affordable price, with effective yields and a purity sufficient so as not to impair graphene's desired chemical properties. While graphene is traditionally known to incur high costs of production, Metalysis is able to produce the largely industrially inaccessible material at no additional production cost to its conventional operations. The company is now focused on further process optimisation.

The Metalysis technology, which produces metal powder directly from oxide using electrolysis, has the potential to significantly increase production volumes. The process uses less energy and also means that innovative alloys can be tailored to have the desired properties for specific applications.

Metalysis believes that graphene production represents a valuable opportunity to pursue additive revenue to the core titanium and tantalum metal powder production business which primarily serves the 3D printing industry.

Dr Dion Vaughan, chief executive officer of Metalysis, said: "We are pleased to announce another exciting achievement on behalf of our technical team. Our proven technology can synthesise graphene monolayers with no operational or production cost impacts on our core metal powder business.

"Producing graphene could enable Metalysis to add new, lucrative markets to those it is already serving; markets in which our arrival could be highly disruptive when global product demand is considered against the sheer amount of graphene we could produce in conjunction with our Gen 4, and later Gen 5 modular expansions. Gen 5, by way of illustration, envisages scaling up production capability for highly profitable niche multi-metal powders to thousands of tonnes per annum.

"We look forward to further optimising our process for graphene production, and exploring opportunities for commercial collaboration within the coming calendar year."

Last month, Metalysis announced that it had successfully produced Niobium containing High Entropy Alloy (HEA) which are particularly applicable to high temperature applications. These include future applications within the aerospace and gas turbine markets, among other industries.

Metalysis website

Images: manchester.ac.uk


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