Australian company Talga Resources are making graphene by the tonne. The CEO was interviewed recently about producing and commercialising graphene related products.
“Ultrapure graphene is grown in labs under carefully controlled conditions, but Mark Thompson (CEO) believes that exploiting the material’s properties on a large scale requires a different approach. Here, he explains how his company, Talga Resources, went from prospecting for gold to developing processes for manufacturing graphene in bulk.
Who did you bring in to help you as Talga evolved?
At first we relied on relationships at universities where academics were publishing a lot of papers on these techniques. But very quickly we saw the limitations of this, so beginning in May 2014 we hired chemists and physicists to do our own graphene-processing development and our own graphene product development.
We still collaborate with universities, particularly the University of Cambridge in the UK, but predominantly we employ our own team and we now have about 35 people spread across four operations centres.
We’ve followed a vertical integration model. We started with the mineral assets, but to extract the maximum amount of value from them we needed a process that would give us a cost and volume advantage. The next step, bolting on our own R&D, came after we learned that graphene doesn’t like to play well with a lot of materials.
It’s probably the world’s ultimate additive (after water), but you have to functionalise it and there’s a lot of chemistry and know-how that goes into making it fit for purpose. That meant we needed an in-house scientific team.
What types of products might create a step change in the market?
I think in the short term it’s going to be coatings, thermal materials and thermoplastics, and maybe also batteries. These products already contain some amount of carbon, and this is where graphene can, I think, be commercialised first – not by creating an entire new class of product or a revolution in performance, but by incremental performance gains from small amounts of additives making a bigger difference and replacing other types of carbon.
For example, graphene may replace carbon black in some products and traditional graphite in others. These are maybe not the most exciting applications, but they are certainly very large ones and they will sustain considerable profit margins.
Turning back to Talga, is there anything that you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
That’s a real toughie. I guess maybe I would have moved a little faster to our vertically integrated model….
We’ve been working for a while on incorporating graphene into concrete, which is seen as a low-value product, but there’s a lot of sustainability and performance benefits in adding graphene to concrete.”
Read the full interview over at Making graphene by the tonne
Source: Physics World – Author: Margaret Harris.
Image: Process improvement: Talga managing director Mark Thompson at the company’s test processing facility in Rudolstadt, Germany. (Courtesy: Steve Wise, 27Creative)
The (full) article first appeared in the 2019 Physics World Focus on Nanotechnology & Nanomaterials under the headline “Graphene by the tonne”