it had made a major advance in graphene platelet production that it says will accelerate potential commercial applications for graphene and gra- phene products. The new process involves a mechanised

exfoliation process in which a strong shearing force is applied to the surface of the graphene layers. “This process can be automated and allows graphene sheets to be produced in larger quanti- ties and with greater chemical purity,” says Ver- sarien. “The 2-DTech production process provides significant amounts of single-layer graphene on an industrial scale.” The first sports shoes to utilise graphene were unveiled in June. Sports footwear and apparel company inov-8 developed what it calls a “gra- phene-enhanced rubber” (it doesn’t say what type of rubber, or how the graphene is incorporated) in collaboration with graphene experts at the National Graphene Institute within the University of Man- chester. The compound, used in outsoles of the company’s G-Series shoes, is said to make them 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder- wearing than regular sports shoe soles. “Prior to this innovation, off-road runners and

Below: Ford has been working with XG Sciences to conduct heat and strength tests on nanomaterial prior to production. First on-the- road projects are close to reality

fitness athletes had to choose between a sticky rub- ber that works well in wet or sweaty conditions but wears down quicker, and a harder rubber that is more durable but not quite as grippy,” says Michael Price, inov-8 product and marketing director. “Athletes now no longer need to compromise.” In the US, XG Sciences, based in Lansing in Michigan, has developed various grades of xGnP graphene naoplatelets, which it says provide multi-functional performance improvement in thermoplastics when used as an additive in low concentrations. At the Compounding World Forum in Fort Lauderdale last year, the company detailed how two grades were compounded into HDPE to produce masterbatches that were then used in

production of blow-moulded bottles with varying graphene concentrations. Flexural modulus enhancement of as much as 11% was measured with xGnP graphene concentrations of 1%. In addition, manufacturing efficiency could also be improved due to the improvement in thermal conductivity, which meant less energy was needed to create a melt and part cooling was accelerated.

Moves on the road This October, Ford Motor Company said it would soon start using XG Sciences graphene in vehicle parts. The car maker points out that graphene is 200 times stronger than steel and one of the most conductive materials in the world, as well as being able to provide sound insulation. And while it says graphene is not economically viable for all applica- tions, it has, in collaboration with Eagle Industries (a producer of automotive NVH components) and XG Sciences, “found a way to use small amounts in fuel rail covers, pump covers and front engine covers to maximise its benefits.” The breakthrough is not in the material, but in the way it is used, according to Debbie Mielewski, Ford Senior Technical Leader, Sustainability and Emerging Materials. “We are able to use less than a half percent to help us achieve significant enhance- ments in durability, sound resistance and weight reduction,” she says. Ford says the graphene has been applied in foam compounds. “Tests done by Ford and suppliers have shown about a 17% reduction in noise, a 20% improvement in mechanical proper- ties and a 30% improvement in heat endurance properties, compared with that of the foam used without graphene,” it says. Graphene is expected to go into production by year-end for more than 10 underhood components on the Ford F-150 and Mustang and eventually, other Ford vehicles. Also in October, XG Sciences said it approxi-

mately doubled graphene nanoplatelet production capacity at he larger of its two facilities to close to 180 tonnes/yr. In a further expansion, expected to be complete by year-end, capacity at the site will rise to 400 tonnes (and to around 450 tonnes/yr across both facilities).

Expansion in SWCNTs

Single-wall carbon nanotubes can be considered as rolled graphene sheets (although that is not how they are made), which is why leading producer OCSiAl has coined and sometimes uses the name “graphene nanotubes”. It expects to sell “a signifi- cant amount” of its Tuball SWCNTs in 2019, according to Christoph Siara, the company’s Sales

32 COMPOUNDING WORLD | December 2018


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