all / natural sciences

Graphene – time form Polish product

Poles are joining in the global race for the commercialisation of graphene, standing a healthy chance of success in competition with companies and research institutes from all over the world.

“We are currently moving on from basic to the application research phase, i.e. work on the commercial application of graphene”, says Dr. Włodzimierz Strupiński from the Institute of Electronic Materials Technology (ITME). The Institute has been conducting research on the material for a decade. The aim is for Poland to gain a strong position on the market, which according to BCC Research, will be worth USD 2 billion by 2025.

“Based on graphene we have developed technologies for manufacturing actual products”, says Prof. Katarzyna Pietrzak, Deputy Director for Scientific Affairs at ITME. “This is important because there are almost no commonly available graphene products out there”.The Institute competes with other leading scientific institutions in terms of graphene output capabilities.

Graphene, a monoatomic layer of carbon, is hoped to bring about flexible electronics and microcircuits, impermeable barrier coatings, high-performance batteries, and conductive plastics. Polish scientists are successfully working on many of these applications already.

ITME and the Industrial Institute for Automation and Measurement have developed a graphene-based magnetic field sensor for measuring high amperage currents. “This is the world’s first device of this type ready for commercial use”, says Tymoteusz Ciuk, MSc. Eng. from ITME, research coordinator for the project. The device works in heat reaching up to 300 degrees Celsius. “Other sensors can withstand half as much,” points out the scientist. It may find its practical application in railway, photovoltaic or electric vehicle construction. The first batch of 26 sensors is undergoing tests at Lumel S.A., a manufacturer of measuring equipment.

Also developed by scientists from ITME are invisible heating layers made of graphene, capable of heating quartz glass up to 500 degrees Celsius. “With this technology, we can fix such layers to ordinary glass panes and flexible substrates,” says Dr. Strupiński. A demonstration version will be presented this June in Warsaw at the Graphene Week conference, an event to be attended by eminent graphene researchers from all over the world.

Yet another application is plastics with the addition of graphene. “Even a small addition is enough to make rubber twice as resistant to tearing,” says Ludwika Lipińska, PhD, ITME. The graphene produced at the Institute has also been successfully implemented by scientists from the West Pomeranian University of Technology. Based on graphene and titanium oxide, they developed a water purification component that is about 20 percent more efficient than any used.

Another invention is graphene paper, which can be used to manufacture flexible lithium batteries, to name just one example. Doctor Lipińska emphasizes that no one has ever managed to produce more than a 5 cm diameter disc of such paper, and her team has patented a method that allows making entire rolls of it.

“The successful Polish efforts related to graphene stem from the commitment, skill, and talent of our employees,” says Prof. Pietrzak. “No work on graphene would ever be possible without the funds we received from the National Centre for Research and Development under the Graf-Tech programme. However, the ongoing financing scheme ends this year – we are counting on further support. Without it, it would be difficult to conduct any further research, attract business partners or achieve commercial goals,” concludes Zenon Godziejewski, deputy director for development at ITME.