Large Scale Production of Super Nanomaterials: Angstron Materials and Graphene

Company Profile: Angstron Materials

Angstron Materials is the world’s largest producer of nano graphene platelets (NGPs) and focuses on engineering graphene based solution for their amazing mechanical, electrical, and conductive properties, they work with clients to incorporate graphene technology in their own production processes, making great strides to help integrate graphene based technology throughout multiple sectors of the economy. Angstron Materials is the first company capable of mass production of high purity NGPs, and holds over 20 patents involving the production and application of nanographene materials. Angstron Materials’ cutting edge research is led by co-founder Dr. Bor Jang, who focuses on the research and development of low-cost carbon nanomaterials, battery, supercapacitor, and fuel cells.

Graphene is a two-dimensional crystalline structure of carbon. In simplest terms it is a one atom thick network solid of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal honeycomb pattern. Carbon, which comes in a variety of allotropes makes up materials diverse as diamond and graphite. In the form of graphene, carbon displays a broad array of properties: it is incredibly strong, light, and conducts heat and electricity amazingly well, all the while being transparent and flexible. For some perspective on how incredible graphene is watch this simple introduction.

  • Due to its incredibly large surface area and two dimensional structure, graphene has an extremely high chemical reactivity. Because it is a two dimensional structure, it is the only form of carbon where a single carbon atom is exposed for chemical reactions. This, in conjunction with the fact that a single sheet of graphene has the maximum surface area, makes it the most reactive form of carbon.

  • Graphene is also an extremely efficient conductor of electrons. Graphene has impressive electron mobility at room temperature; electrons travel through graphene extremely quickly, at 100th the speed of light.

  • Graphene is incredibly strong. In fact it is one of the strongest known materials to mankind. It is stronger than diamond and over 100 times stronger than steel, capable of bearing pressure in excess of 150,000,000 psi.

  • Graphene also has interesting thermal conductivity properties. In-line with its planar structure, graphene exhibits a thermal conductivity among the highest of any known material measure at 2000–4000 W/m*K. In this direction, thermal energy is transferred through the sp2 bonds that make up graphene’s structure. However, in non-planar directions graphene’s thermal conductivity is limited: because graphene is composed one-atom thick sheets, non-planar heat transfer involves moving thermal energy between different graphene molecules, which are held together only by relatively weak Van der Waals forces between graphene sheets a mere 6 W/m*K.

So How do You Make It?

Graphene is actually surprisingly easy to make. Graphene can be made in small quantities by simply using scotch tape to peel of a layer of graphene from a bulk piece of graphite. For large-scale production however, this is obviously impractical; one of the largest areas of investigation is how to produce mass quantities of graphene for commercial purposes.

Although difficult to procure in large amounts, it has also been recently discovered that graphene can be quickly produced through the electrolysis of graphite. In this process, graphene flakes off of the graphite anode into a solution of (NH4)2SO4, K2SO4, and Na2SO4. By passing a direct current through the graphite, composed of many layers of graphene, flakes of graphene break off into the solution; this method of production is called exfoliation.

Angston Materials uses a similar exfoliation process, except rather than providing energy through an electric current, they use sonication, the mechanical use of sound waves. Angston’s patented exfoliation process involves creating a suspension of graphitic material in a solution. The key to this is that the solution must have surface tension to wet each individual graphene plane. By doing this, the solution essentially sandwiches itself in between the graphene planes that make up the graphite. By passing ultrasonic sound waves through the solution, the particles of the solution are agitated, forcing the graphite apart into individual graphene planes. This is achieved by overcoming the intermolecular forces that weakly hold together the graphene planes to compose graphite. These forces include Van der Waals forces and London dispersion forces.

The products produced by Angstron Materials are used in a variety of fields. One main application is in the automotive field. Angstron’s NGP-resin systems allow low resistance to shear flow even at a high NGP proportion. This is because Angstron’s NGP-resin systems allow two-dimensional platelets to slide over another. In automotive production, this is especially useful because it allows for easy application of structural adhesives and a more convenient melt processing of polymer nanocomposites containing a high NGP loading. In aerospace, the NGPs can provide electrical conductivity greater than copper, while having the advantage of having less than a quarter the denisty. This allows for the airplanes to be created using lighter weight components and operate more efficiently. Also, the NGPs are fifty times stronger than steel. NGPs are mainly used in aerospace applications such as aircraft braking systems, thermal management, and electrostatic discharge (ESD).

Furthermore, NGPs are being heavily employed in energy applications because of it’s extremely high thermal conductivity. They are being used to create the next generation Li-Ion battery, serving as a conductive additive for both the anode and cathode. The NGPs are also able to be used as conductive support for Si nano particles, nano coatings, or anode active materials in order to provide an enhanced specific capacity, prolonged cycle life, fast charging rate, and high-current discharge capability. Li-Ion batteries created using Angstron Materials’ NGPs will be a significant improvement over the current technology. NGP solutions are also implemented in telecommunications and military applications.

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