China taking graphene to the mass market by making it with ... corn

Carlton Reid
China taking graphene to the mass market by making it with ... corn

Chinese scientists have started to manufacture graphene from corn, they announced at a press conference held at Heilongjiang University on Friday.

This breakthrough means that graphene could now be made more cheaply, greatly expanding the supply of the material which has until now remained relatively small, reports China's Global Times.

Previously, the main source of graphene was graphite.

There are plenty of strong claims made for the use of graphene in the bike industry but, to date, only Vittoria, Catlike and Dassi have graphene-linked products on the market.

Catlike uses graphene in its high-end Mixino helmet. Vittoria’s 2017 tyre range majors on the inclusion of graphene in its list of ingredients. Vittoria claims that adding a one-atom-thick layer of graphene allows its tyres to remain hard on the straights but soften during braking or cornering. The Graphene+ tyres are also longer-lasting and more puncture resistant, says the Italian company, and they dissipate heat more efficiently.

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Graphene was first isolated at Manchester University, and the city of Manchester aims to capitalise on its connection with the National Graphene Institute which is based in a futuristic new building just off Oxford Road, one of Manchester’s key thoroughfares, and which is currently being dug up for the installation of protected cycleways.

The material was isolated – using Sellotape – by two Manchester University physicists, Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov: winning them the 2010 Nobel prize for physics (and knighthoods). “Usually when you make materials thinner and thinner, their properties deteriorate,” said Sir Andre. “But with graphene we found things only got better.”

Graphene been hailed as the strongest and most conductive material in the world, with a huge range of electronic and medical appplications.

Sporting goods companies were among the first to make graphene-enhanced products – aside from bike frames and tyres, there are graphene-enriched tennis rackets from Head.

Graphene has a tensile strength of 130 gigapascals (Gpa), and, on a molecular level, is claimed to be the strongest known material in the world, 2000 percent stronger the toughest carbon fibre (Toray T1000 has a tensile strength of 6.3 GPa) and nearly percent stronger than diamond.

While we’ll never see a full frame made from graphene, it’s likely we’ll see more wheels and wheel brake tracks using the material, specifically because of its heat-dissipation properties.

Graphene is also a superlative electrical conductor and could be used to in electronic drivetrains, power meters, computers, and lights.

Vittoria has been working with graphene for nearly six years, in association with Directa Plus, a graphene factory. Directa Plus supplies graphene to Vittoria as three-to-seven-atoms thick “nano-platelets”.

A Qurano wheel made with graphene, says Vittoria, has 50 percent more lateral stiffness, 10 percent better heat dissipation, 18 percent more impact strength and yet is 15 percent lighter. Vittoria is an investor in Directa Plu, which was founded in 2005 and is based in Italy.

China has invested £3m in the National Graphene Institute via a five-year research partnership with the Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Materials. 

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