NETL Supports Nanomaterial Technology
International research and development company Universal Matter has reportedly received support from the National Energy Technology Laboratory to further research the development of Flash Joule Heating (FJH).
According to the NETL's news release, the company has demonstrated how FJH can transform carbon-rich materials like coal and coal-wastes into high-quality graphene.
About the Research
The release states that the development of this new technology at Universal Matter’s Houston facility could have implications for a wide array of materials that are a part of everyday life.
According to the company, graphene is a versatile carbon-based nanomaterial that is 200 times stronger than steel and can stretch up to 25% of its original length. Graphene reportedly consists of tightly bonded carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice.
A new technology that transforms carbon materials like coal and coal-derived carbons into high-quality graphene for use in a range of products is closer to reality as a result of support from NETL. Read more: https://t.co/UZI2GlwHR2 pic.twitter.com/7NVNgO0ydd— NETL (@NETL_DOE) September 6, 2023
The lab notes that graphene is more electrically conductive than copper, possessesing extremely high thermal conductivity and stronger in tensile strength than any known material.
“Universal Matter’s FJH process can convert diverse carbon sources into graphene with tunable characteristics for an almost unlimited number of applications,” said Joe Stoffa, NETL’s technology manager for the Carbon Ore Processing Program.
“Universal Matter’s scale-up of FJH graphene production is key because it means the nation’s carbon ore resources can have a significant additional application beyond their traditional use in power generation and metallurgy.”
Stoffa added that producing high-quality graphene on a large scale at a low cost could enable several disruptive technologies.
Additionally, graphene technology firm Graphenea reported that one of the biggest challenges of the graphene industry will be to reach adequate volume production in the next two to five years, with a focus on material consistency and production cost.
According to the Graphene Council, aerospace engineers are also looking at graphene and other advanced materials as important enabling technologies for the next generation of aircraft and space vehicles. In the automotive industry, graphene could play a major role in the future of transportation due to its broad range of performance attributes.
The release states that graphene can improve lithium-ion battery charging speed and capacity, can be added to polymers to decrease automobile weight and can be incorporated into carbon-metal composites to make smaller and less expensive electric motors and inverters.
Additional applications for graphene reportedly include composites, asphalt, anti-corrosion coatings, concrete and cement, electronics, lubricants, plastics, polymers, rubber and synthetics, semiconductors, sensors, structural materials, textiles, thermal management and water filtration.
Other Graphene Research
At the beginning of the year, researchers from Rice University and the University of Calgary, Canada, transformed a crude oil byproduct, asphaltene, into graphene for thermal, anti-corrosion and 3D printing applications.
Muhammad Rahman, an assistant research professor of materials science and nanoengineering, is a lead corresponding author of the paper in the journal Science Advances, alongside Rice chemist James Tour, materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and Md Golam Kibria, an assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Calgary, Canada.
Using the university's flash Joule heating process, Rahman is converting asphaltenes into turbostratic, or loosely aligned, graphene to mix with composites. Rice reports that this process uses up material otherwise burned for reuse as fuel or discarded into tailing ponds and landfills.
Additionally, the world has a reserve of more than 1 trillion barrels of asphaltene. Using some of this reserve, Rice says, as a feedstock for graphene would be beneficial for the environment.
According to the release, since asphaltenes are already 70% to 80% carbon, researchers combined it with about 20% of carbon black to add conductivity. They then flashed it with a jolt of electricity, reportedly turning it into graphene in less than a second.
Afterwards, Saadi mixed the graphene into composites and polymer inks for 3D printers. He said that they “optimized the ink rheology” to show that it is printable, with inks having no more than 10% of graphene mixed in.
Saadi also noted that mechanical testing of printed objects is upcoming. The research was funded by the Alberta Innovates for Carbon Fiber Grand Challenge programs, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Science Foundation.