The Chairman of the Australian Graphene Industry Association (AGIA) has called for government action to ensure Australia reaps the many benefits of graphene, a super-material made from carbon that experts claim will help Australia meet its carbon emissions targets and allow Australian advanced manufacturers using graphene to become leaders worldwide.
In his opening remarks to the AGIA Graphene + Enabled Smart Cities Conference in Melbourne today, Chris Gilbey OAM said Australia could be a global innovation hub for graphene-enhanced materials, as these will be an intrinsic part of future ‘smart-cities’ thanks to its unmatched properties, including strength and electrical and thermal conductivity.
“Australia has the potential to become a global powerhouse in developing revolutionary products that are made possible by graphene. We have here in Australia an amazing resource, the leading graphene scientists in the world, but we are in danger of losing our leadership position if state and federal governments don’t step up and incentivise the industries that are prepared to commercialise graphene,” Gilbey said.
“Industry is already acting to develop graphene-enabled products, but it needs to be incentivised to develop the value-add activities and therefore jobs associated with this emerging local sector. It’s incumbent on our policymakers to support the creation of market conditions that encourage the proliferation of our graphene innovation into global supply chains.
“Graphene can be the panacea to deliver the ‘jobs and growth’ mantra we hear from politicians. We care about our Aussie sportspeople punching above their weight and winning gold, however our graphene scientists have been doing precisely this for some years. We need to move their stories into the mainstream because they are the heroes of our time. Their work will do more than garner gold medals. It will generate billion-dollar revenues for Australia and make our economy great again.”
A recent Acumen Research and Consulting report estimated graphene’s market value will surpass USD$552.6 million by 2026, representing an average annual growth rate of 38.2 percent from 2019 to 2026, underscoring the importance of Australia maintaining its leadership position in the sector.
However, graphene often only needs to have a one or two per cent presence by volume in a composite material to transformed it something that can take on graphene’s superlative capabilities. The economic impact of graphene is therefore many orders of magnitude greater than its tradeable value in and of itself.
As a key ingredient in many everyday applications, graphene is perhaps the most important substance consumers will never see. It’s what makes modern smart-phones fast-charging and bendable, strengthens asphalt in roads to end cracking, and enables filtration systems to efficiently turn polluted water into pure drinking water in a single pass.
Graphene has been used to build ‘smart’ walls, floors and ceilings that can monitor movement in buildings. Overseas, it is being used in trials to eradicate potholes, and can potentially increase the efficiency of solar cells by more than 50%.
Gilbey reiterated the need for Commonwealth and state governments to support unlocking graphene’s potential to help immediately reduce carbon emissions and reduce the impacts of climate change.
“While the practical applications for graphene are varied and almost limitless, its potential to slash carbon dioxide emissions on an industrial scale is what could soon make it the globe’s hottest commodity. This will be achieved by decoupling existing supply chains and restructuring them to include low-cost graphene. New supply chains are where the job creation will be, and jobs will go to jurisdictions that understand this. The industries and businesses that recognise this first will reap the rewards.”
Gilbey cited Geelong-based Imagine Intelligent Materials, where he serves as Executive Chairman, as an example of how graphene can stimulate local economies. The business recently developed a product that enabled the creation of ‘smart’ floors, walls and ceilings which can convert real data into information about how rooms are used.
“The business is likely to quadruple its workforce over the next 12-18 months through demand for the graphene-based products we manufacture, which include contracts with major global manufacturers. That says a great deal about the immense potential of graphene.”
Queensland-based Global Manufacturing Group (GMG) is another Australian business making significant progress commercialising graphene. Graphene-based fluid products, GMG manufactures in bulk, can be used in engine coolant to reduce energy costs, in concrete to increase strength and reduce curing time, and in paint to increase energy savings and reduce heat transfer.
“Graphene has the ability to empower innovation and our product is increasingly sought after by a broad range of international clients across a swathe of industries from medical to automotive, construction and research to name a few,’ said GMG Founder and Managing Director Craig Nicol.
Ionic Industries was one of the early companies to focus on the commercialisation of graphene technologies. Managing Director Simon Savage has played an instrumental role in closing the gap between the laboratory and unlocking the commercial possibilities of graphene.
“Our focus has always been on working with commercially scalable versions of graphene, specifically graphene oxide which is cheaper and easier to handle than many graphene materials,” said Savage. “We have developed early applications in water treatment and energy storage in collaboration with CleanTeq, and we will aim to deliver a wealth of graphene technologies to revolutionise diverse industries from electronics and green chemical processing to food packaging and medical devices,” he said.
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