Australian startup Sparc Technologies, a materials science company focused on developing industrial applications for graphene, announced that it has begun construction of a production facility devoted to graphene-based additive manufacturing (AM) materials. At the new site, located in Adelaide, Sparc intends to build up its production capacity for graphene-based coatings and composites to commercial scale.
A nanomaterial, ‘graphene’ more or less refers to the thinnest possible layer of graphite that can exist in isolation. Its very existence was considered purely theoretical until 2004, when a form of it was discovered by physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the UK’s University of Manchester. Utilizing a block of graphite and plain old scotch tape, Geim and Noveselov isolated the material in two-dimensional form, an accomplishment that won them the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics.
In addition to its strength, and the already-mentioned ability to be bonded to a wide variety of other chemicals, much of the recent R&D interest in graphene-based materials stems from their bactericidal properties. Thus, along with heavy industry and energy — Sparc Technologies, for instance, has a strong focus on hydrogen power — graphene-based materials are increasingly gaining traction in the medical device sector.
Finally, the utilization of graphene in coatings and composites would seem to be particularly viable for the AM sector in Australia, given the growing importance of cold spray AM in that market. Given the potential of graphene-based metal alloys for use in renewable energy, the successful combination of those two technologies — nanomaterials science and cold spray AM — could have significant implications for accelerating the scale-up of more sustainable energy supply chains.
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