Graphene Flagship highlights commercialization opportunities in 2D materials roadmap

Europe’s Graphene Flagship – a € 1 billion research initiative tasked with bringing together academia and industry to translate 2D materials from the lab to the market – has released an Open Access version of its science and technology roadmap highlighting key application areas for graphene and related structures and providing estimates of timelines to market.

The report (PDF | Rich HTML) includes the views of more than 60 academics and industrial partners, and concludes a four-year project to collect and coordinate information “to guide the community
towards the development of products based on graphene, related two dimensional (2d) crystals and hybrid systems.”

The roadmap flags flexible electronics, composites, and energy as three areas that could generate close-to-market products within a 10-year timeline. Further out, the programme hopes to see silicon-integrated photonic devices, sensors, high-speed electronics, and biomedical devices based on 2D materials also making an impact beyond the lab.

For more information, visit – http://graphene-flagship.eu/

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Supercapacitors: market factors to consider

Supercapacitors are a promising application for advanced materials such as high surface area nanocarbons, but what are the translational issues and market factors that researchers need to consider to win-over commercial partners? To find out more on the topic, TMR+ spoke with Franco Gonzalez, a senior analyst at IDTechEx and co-author of ‘Electrochemical Double Layer Capacitors: Supercapacitors 2014-2024’ – a 10 year forecast analysing the market, applications, technology, patent and profit trends, and key players in the sector.

Advantages over batteries
Supercapacitors don’t rely on chemical reactions and this gives them several advantages over batteries including a higher power capacity per unit mass, superior operation at low temperatures and extended operational lifetime. Truck-makers are using supercapacitors to guarantee that vehicles will start in very cold weather – a scenario where lead-acid batteries perform poorly as their energy capacity can be reduced by as much as 50%.

The longer cycle lifetimes of supercapacitors compared with batteries can lower system maintenance costs and improve reliability. It makes devices attractive for large resource power applications, particular in remote locations. In wind farms, supercapacitors are used to power actuators that change the blade pitch in high winds to protect the turbines.

IDTechEx senior analyst, Franco Gonzalez

IDTechEx senior analyst, Franco Gonzalez

Energy recovery
Although supercapacitors store less energy than batteries, they can be charged very quickly without detriment (unlike batteries). This makes them ideal for regenerative breaking systems, for example on trains and trams, which convert kinetic energy into electricity. They can also be configured to recover potential energy stored in cranes operating at cargo loading and unloading sites. “At ports, these machines can be in use almost constantly, so it’s a great opportunity for energy recovery,” said Gonzalez. “The need to reduce CO2 emissions is driving the market.”

It often makes sense to pair a supercapacitor and a battery together. “Power surges reduce the energy capacity of a battery,” he explained. “But you can protect it using a supercapacitor.” The combination can be used to extend the lifetime of batteries in renewable energy systems, or in smart phones where power-demand fluctuates depending on the functions in use.

Industry factors
As a general rule, supercapacitors are well-suited to applications with highly-variable power demands. In principle, this means they are a great match for ‘stop-start’ systems fitted to modern cars, which switch-off the engine while you are waiting in traffic or at stop lights and then restart the vehicle when you engage the gearbox. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

“Different industries focus on different parameters,” Gonzalez cautioned. “Auto-makers are looking for supercapacitors that are half the price of current devices as they focus on the cost per unit energy and are concerned about the selling price of the car.”

Sales of electric buses and on the other hand are much less sensitive to the initial purchase price as buyers in this sector pay more attention to the total cost of ownership of the vehicle. In this case, because supercapacitors bring down the price per charging cycle, the market is more lucrative for developers.

Today, supercapacitors are more attractive to industrial users that are open to considering the system level cost rather than the cost per unit energy of devices. But, as Gonzalez points out, supercapacitor manufacturers are nevertheless working hard at the material level to reduce price and improve device performance to offer a better cost per unit energy to customers.

Device development
Advances in materials can contribute in a number of ways to making supercapacitors more competitive in the market. Increasing the surface area of the electrodes through activated carbons and nanomaterials will drive up the capacitance and benefit the energy storage capacity of the device. At the same time, finding ways to reduce the resistance (of the active material, the electrolyte, and the porous separator) will boost the power output.

However, it is the operation of supercapacitor cells at higher voltages (V) and finding the right materials to make this happen, which may impact performance in the short to medium term. Both the power and the energy of a capacitor are proportional to V2. “Electrolytes in organic solvents can withstand 2.7 V, but developers are also looking at ionic liquids – room temperature salts – that operate at 5V,” said Gonzalez.

Devices come in many shapes and sizes, and he highlights micro-supercapacitors as a particularly exciting and growing area of research. Gonzalez advises researchers to look at lower-cost materials and manufacturing methods in the first instance. “If you want to use expensive materials then you need to find an application that will pay for that,” he commented. “Researchers need to be aware of how the industry is changing and the relative sensitivity to price of the different applications.”

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Fullerex talks graphene pricing; identifies growth areas and supply targets

Nanomaterials broker Fullerex has updated its pricing report on graphene, which includes up to date sale prices listed according to order size across the various nanopowder grades of graphene currently available in bulk quantities. The report also analyses a range of market opportunities including composites, lubricants, 3D printing and concrete. By exploring these sectors in detail, the report identifies price-points that graphene would need to reach to penetrate each of these industries.

“In the near-term we see functional fillers as being a growth area for graphene commercialization,” Tom Eldridge, co-founder of Fullerex, told TMR+. “The challenge for graphene providers has been supplying the material in a format that’s ready for customers to use.”

Today, graphene makers are responding to the issue by formulating their materials as inks, dispersions and even masterbatches, which make it easier for customers to integrate graphene into their manufacturing processes.

It’s a critical step in building the market and generating compelling performance data. Longer term though, Eldridge believes that there’s a ceiling to the amount of processing and materials development that graphene providers, many of them small firms, can undertake.

“As you move up the value chain the burden of R&D falls more and more on the nanomaterials producers, which strains the resources of these companies,” he explained.

Another factor to consider is ‘supply availability’ if graphene is to succeed in high-volume sectors such as plastics and concrete.

“If you consider mainstream commercial markets then a supply capacity of thousands of tonnes is a drop in the ocean compared with the supply of other global commodities and what would be required of graphene in these sectors,” Eldridge said. “On top of that virtually none of today’s supply of graphene is interchangeable.”

Standardization in the classification of graphene (see – CARBON 65 2013 1-6) and the coordination of product definitions have a role to play in addressing this. As the user base for graphene expands, Eldridge is confident that this activity will pick up.

“Once these materials can prove their commercial worth and generate demand then these supply problems can be overcome, particularly if the right financial tools are in place and the market is operating efficiently so that communication is made effectively between participants to instigate some cooperation,” he commented. “This is what we feel the role of a broker/merchant such as Fullerex can bring.”

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Nominations now open for 2015 MATERIALICA awards

MATERIALICA has been championing new materials and innovative applications since launching its awards program in 2003. “We honour products which combine outstanding design and high technology expertise,” explained Robert Metzger, jury member and organizer of the MATERIALICA Design + Technology Award.

Boosting the thermal conductivity of plastics

2014 winner SILATHERM (image credit: Quartzwerke Gmbh)

Last year‘s winners include Budenheim’s Excelion material, which is used to advance lithium ion batteries, and SILATHERM from HPF, which improves the thermal conductivity of plastics without downgrading the electrically insulating properties of the host substance. Also recognised in 2014 were LZN Laser Zentrum Nord and EDAG Engineering – co-recipients of the silver award for surface technology. The prize acknowledges the winners’ use of 3D printing to enable a multifunctional aluminium housing for electric vehicles, which weighs just 900 g compared with 1900 g for the reference casting.

In 2013, I-MEET (Institute of Materials for Electronics and Energy Technology, University Erlangen-Nuremberg) won the gold product award for its solution-processed flexible semitransparent organic solar cells. The modules are laser patterned and feature silver nanowire meshes as top and bottom electrodes. Applications for the devices include windows (the cells exhibit 56% transmittance at 550 nm) and skylights.

The deadline for submitting nominations to the selection committee is 17 July 2015. Application forms and further details can be found by visiting materialica.com

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Fast-tracking innovation: Euro 200 million funding initiative goes live

The European Commission wants to speed up the translation of new ideas into socio-economic value and is implementing a range of funding packages to meet this challenge, such as its Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) call, which opened this month.

Supporters hope that the FTI scheme (see leaflet pdf) will act as an incentive for European industry to continue investing in innovation, and lead to “game-changers” for growth and jobs in tomorrow’s economy.

The pilot programme, which will be reviewed in 2016, has a budget of Euro 200 million and seeks projects that are at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 or above – in other words, technologies that have been demonstrated in a relevant environment.

Grants of up to Euro 3 million are available to successful applicants to support activities including systems validation in real working conditions, testing, piloting, business model validation, and standard setting.

Proposals must describe the market potential of the technology and include a credible commercialisation strategy that identifies the next steps.

If you are interested in applying, the first step is to contact your closest National Contact Point (NCP) for advice on whether or not the FTI pilot call is a suitable opportunity for your organisation or consortium.

A list of FAQs (MS Word doc) is also available from the FTI participant portal.

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5 ways to tackle materials translation and build better products

One of the highlights of the launch of Translational Materials Research (TMR) has been the opportunity to discuss the journey from lab to market in detail with the journal’s Editorial Board through a series of exclusive interviews.

Here are five key takeaways from the conversation so far -

Invest in fundamental research
“[When I started the Quantum Science Research Initiative] I wanted to have something big that would grab people’s attention and get them to understand that long term fundamental research can be a valuable corporate strategic asset,” revealed Stan Williams, Senior Fellow and VP of Foundational Technologies at Hewlett Packard Labs. “A lot of companies are now realizing that they have to invest more in innovation, and invest more broadly as a means of risk reduction.”

Build on a solid understanding
“Regardless of what you choose to do in the future, first you need to be the best scientist or engineer you can,” advised Zhenan Bao, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Stanford University, and co-founder of tech start-up C3-Nano. “You need to have a solid fundamental understanding that you can build on to develop the skills needed for solving problems, especially complex problems, as this will serve you well if you choose to start your own research group or technology company.”

Go large
“Having a well-defined big problem gives you a strategy to attack it. Of course, it branches as time goes on, but that strategy provokes a whole set of things that you need to do in order to reach your goal, and there can be unexpected pay-offs,” said Peter Littlewood, Director of Argonne National Lab.

Take a broad view
“One of the things that we do already is to look beyond the science problems and imagine what the system would look like,” Littlewood continued. “Could we build it? How heavy would it be? This is what we call ‘techno-economic modelling’, and we do this as part of the whole programme, which can mean that you decide to back-pedal on some of your initial ideas.”

Manage your ideas well
“You need an organizational structure with ‘low interfacial resistance’, which allows ideas to go from science to product development, and for people to move from one department or area to another,” commented Om Nalamasu, Chief Technology Officer of Applied Materials.

For much more on all of these and other key topics related to the translation of materials research into robust products and devices, visit issues #1 and #2 of the journal, which are now both live on IOPscience.

And don’t forget that you can receive TMR+ news alerts by joining our mailing list. It’s easy to sign up, just look for the “subscribe to email alerts” box on the journal’s companion blog, TMR+.

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An interview with board member R. Stanley Williams
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An interview with board member Peter Littlewood
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Materials MOOC: Introduction to Graphene Science and Technology (course preview)

Chalmers University of Technology, which coordinates the European Commission’s EURO 1 billion Graphene Flagship initiative, is launching a series of MOOCs – massive open online courses – beginning with an “Introduction to Graphene Science and Technology“.

Spread over 10 weeks, the graphene primer will be presented by Jie Sun of the Quantum Device Physics Laboratory, which is part of the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience at Chalmers.

“At the end of the course, an engineer should be able to determine if graphene is suitable for the company’s products, and a student should be able to decide if the subject is of interest for continued studies”, he explained.

To enrol, visit the edX platform, which also features online material from MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Delft University, EPFL, The University of Tokyo and many other institutions.

The course is “free of charge and accessible to anyone with a computer” and starts on 23 March 2015.

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Hauser review recommends expansion in translational infrastructure

In a highly-awaited review of the UK’s Catapult network, Hermann Hauser – serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist and adviser to the UK Government – has updated conclusions on the UK’s ability to foster translational research that fills the void between early-stage publicly funded studies and industrially supported commercialization.

Back in 2010, Hauser highlighted the need for the UK to close the critical gap between research findings and their subsequent development into commercial propositions, and proposed a network of technology and innovation centres to “deliver a step change in the UK’s ability to commercialise its research.” Specifically, the centres would provide hubs of technical expertise, infrastructure, skills and equipment.

Fast-forward to today and seven of these centres or “Catapults” are now in operation –

With two more in the pipeline for 2015 –

In his 2014 report, Hauser is largely positive about the progress made since 2010, and recommends that Innovate UK should grow the network of Catapults at a rate of 1-2 centres per year, with a view to having 30 Catapults by 2030.

Full details can be found on GOV.UK

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DOE Lab-Corps builds on NSF I-Corps model to accelerate translation of clean energy technologies

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a $2.3 million initiative to accelerate the transfer of innovative clean energy technologies from its national laboratories into the marketplace.

Dubbed Lab-Corps, the approach builds on the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) model and has been launched as a specialized technology accelerator and training curriculum that will enable teams to gain direct market feedback on their technologies and pursue the development of startup companies, industry partnerships, licensing agreements, and other business opportunities.

Over the next year, the pilot program will assemble, train, and support entrepreneurial teams to identify private sector opportunities for commercializing promising sustainable transportation, renewable power, and energy efficiency lab technologies. Each Lab-Corps team will receive comprehensive training and access to a suite of commercialization resources, including technology validation and testing, facility access, techno-economic analysis, and other incubation services.

For more information on the project and on the labs that are involved, visit Energy.gov.

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Nanofabrication expert wins IOP award for translational physics research

A guest post for TMR+ by Douglas Paul, professor of semiconductor devices at the University of Glasgow and director of the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre

Douglas Paul was awarded the President’s Medal at the Institute of Physics (IOP) awards dinner on 15 October, in recognition of his achievements in translating physics research into advanced technology.

Acceptance speech

Madam President, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, colleagues

I am extremely honoured to be standing here and accepting the President’s medal from the Institute of Physics.

After seeing past recipients have included Brian Cox, Tim Berners-Lee, Michael Atiyah and Lord Dainton you are probably all wondering who is Douglas Paul and why is he getting the President’s Medal?

I have always modelled my career on Louis Pasteur – undertaking research to solve major problems that at some level benefit society. This has not always got publications in the high impact journals that is required to advance ones career, but it has allowed me to interact with an enormous number of UK and international companies.

My PhD at Cambridge and my first funded research grant were both about finding ways to reduce the power consumption of the transistors in microchips. This work on strained-Si MOSFETs is now in every major microprocessor being produced today. I was one of the first to suggest straining channels but lost the race to be first to deliver high performance devices. The experience taught me a lot!

The EC funding for the work press-ganged me into compiling the Technology Roadmap for European Nanoelectronics in 1999. I had little idea it was going to be taken into the industrial International Technology Roadmap of Semiconductors forming the first Future Emerging Technologies chapter in 2005.

This got me my first interaction with the IOP when I ended up in the House of Lord’s giving evidence to the House of Lord’s Enquiry into “Chips for Everything” in May 2002. Later I became a member of the Science Board and helped to lobby government on science policy.

David King whilst GCSA to Tony Blair brought me into the Home Office CBRN Scientific Advisory Committee in 2004 after I had written a DTI report on security and medical imaging along with having DARPA funding for THz work.

Little did I realise when I said yes to being on this committee that it would be involved in the 7/7 bombing reviews, shoot to kill policy, airports liquids ban, Litvinenko and many other incidents not in the public domain.

I am frequently asked why a physicist is involved in so much security? National security requires technology that can detect threats – either imaging technology or sensors. The science is heavily based on quantum mechanics and electromagnetism and so physicists are essential to the National Security of the UK.

We have many examples of physicists in security in this room. Our President Francis Saunders, a physicist ended up as the Chief Executive of the UK’s Defence Scientific Technology Laboratory and Peter Knight who is also here tonight and a former president has chaired the MOD’s Defence Scientific Advisory Council (DSAC).

Indeed it was Peter who interviewed me when I became a member of MOD’s DSAC and we walked around Warminster with full body armour and a half pack to understand the problems dismounted solders were facing in Afganhistan. I have pushed with others trying to get a modern science and engineering capability around MOD and DSTL that can provide the UK with the scientific capability to meet the threats of tomorrow.

In 2007 I moved to Glasgow so that I could get access to a far better cleanroom for research than any of the ones in Cambridge. Three years later I became the Director of that cleanroom, the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre and within 2 weeks of landing the job had to develop a strategy and business plan to drive it forward.

It has been a delight to be Director and publicise some of the original research of my colleagues including the first directed STEM cell growth using nanopatterns – now in clinical trials for self-repairing hip-joint replacements, lab-on-a-pill (now spun out into a prostate cancer probe start-up) and the development of 10 nm III-V CMOS which may well be in everyone’s computers in 2019.

In the last 10 years, the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre has collaborated with over 288 companies in 28 countries worldwide including 12 of the top 20 semiconductor companies and 48 of the international universities in the Times Higher Education Top 100 International Universities list. We have also become two national facilities, one for EPSRC and one for STFC plus we are now a strategic partner of DSTL and have been a major supplier to NPL in a range of areas including their atomic clock work. Indeed most of the pretty pictures of magneto-optical traps and Penning traps from NPL published in the FT and elsewhere have been devices made in the cleanroom at Glasgow.

The UK has been particularly poor at translating research into products. At present, most UK academics get far better rewards from the Research Excellence Framework and their universities for a Nature or Science publication than for transferring IP into a UK company. Until this is changed and translating IP has a larger value than publications then Great Britain will only be great at science and will not be great at translating the science into products that help the British companies and the British economy that actually funds the research in the universities.

Studying Physics has been a great enjoyment and allowed me to pursue research, but also provide a service to society by advising Government Ministers about National Security. But research is my first love and at the moment I am still having great fun playing with phonon and electron bandgaps to engineer improved thermoelectrics to harvest waste heat from cars to reduce CO2 emissions and trying to detect utilities under the street through making gradiometers with MEMS and Si photonics technology to reduce roadwork delays.

As I stand between everyone and dinner, I will stop here but leave you with a poem that I have had on the wall of my office for many years and has really been the vision and inspiration to keep me going, especially on those difficult days when it appears none of the research seems to be moving forward.

Different

Not to say what everyone else was saying
not to believe what everyone else believed
not to do what everybody did.
then to refute what everyone else was saying
then to disprove what everyone else believed
then to deprecate what everybody did,

was his way to come by understanding

how everyone else was saying the same as he was saying
believing what he believed
and did what doing.

Clere Parsons (1908 – 1931)

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