The Business Proposition

Business Opportunity

Interest in graphene and its potential uses has grown rapidly since 2004, when the material was first isolated using the now famous "Scotch tape" method by Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester1,2. An area of particular interest is graphene-reinforced polymers, which aim to exploit the excellent properties of graphene in order to produce high performance polymer components.

Epoxy resins are widely used in application areas ranging from aerospace composites to electronic components, with a worldwide market of £9.5bn. However, many of these applications would benefit from improvement of the epoxy, to increase properties such as strength (e.g. adhesives), toughness (e.g. composite matrices) or electrical conductivity (e.g. conductive polymers). Graphene-reinforcement has been shown to provide these improvements on a laboratory scale, but the problem is that there are no cost effective techniques suitable for producing these materials in industrial quantities.

By developing a top-down technique which can efficiently produce graphene via the direct exfoliation of inexpensive graphite starting materials directly into epoxy resins, the NanoSynth project will result in a synthesis platform which can produce graphene-reinforced epoxy resins on an industrial scale.

In Europe and North America, aerospace has been identified as the most attractive market sector for future growth of composite materials. For this reason, and given the UK's expertise within this sector (represented in NanoSynth by both Bombardier Aerospace and B/E Aerospace), aerospace applications will be our initial focus (some example applications are shown in Figure A1).

The availability of economically viable industrial quantities of graphene-filled epoxy resins will also have a significant effect in a wide range of other markets where improvements are needed in the strength, toughness, electrical conductivity and thermal performance of epoxies.

Example Aerospace Applications

Figure A1 - Example Aerospace Applications

Industrial Interest Group

An Industrial Interest Group (IIG) of 5-10 end-user companies will be formed to help steer the project and ensure industrial relevance of the technology developed in order to maximise the commercial potential, in particular in sectors not represented within the consortium. The group will have the following objectives:

  • Exchange scientific and technological information necessary for the successful direction of the project and the achievement of its objectives.
  • Cooperate with industrial researchers and technologists regarding the innovative developments.
  • Steer the choice, specification and development of the materials and applications.
  • Inform industry on the progress of the project.

The group will help steer the project from the perspective of end-users, will be kept informed of the main (non-confidential) project outputs and will be invited to an end-user workshop towards the end of the project. Companies will be appointed by invitation and their role will be to highlight industrial opportunities and to comment on emerging technology outside of the project activities. The group will be extremely useful whilst plans for exploitation are being drawn up, as strong relationships will have been forged with the members during the project and they are likely to be the first customers to benefit from the technology.