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Australia takes the lead in race to commercialise graphene for super intelligent materials
June 8, 2016

Australia’s largest geotextiles manufacturer, Geofabrics, is set to become the first company in the world to use the new super material, graphene, in large scale production.

Geofabrics will use graphene coating technology developed by Sydney-based Imagine Intelligent Materials (Imagine IM) to produce leak-detecting textiles for applications in landfill, mining and construction. Production is expected to start later this year.

Graphene, discovered in 2004, is a one atom thick layer of carbon extracted from graphite. It is 100 times stronger than steel, is impervious to water and gases, can stretch like rubber and has extremely high electrical and thermal conductivity. Graphene’s discoverers were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010.

The Geofabrics licensing agreement was one of a series of Imagine IM announcements in recent months, as the company moves to commercialise its IP in graphene coatings for leak detection, sensing systems and water wicking and wetting.

In a move pivotal to achieving that goal, the company is establishing Australia’s first commercial graphene manufacturing plant in Geelong, Victoria, the home of several innovative carbon fibre start- ups and Deakin University’s Carbon Nexus.

Phil Aitchison, COO and head of R&D at Imagine IM, said the pilot plant to be built by Geelong- based engineering company, Austeng, would be used to bed-down proprietary production processes and to supply Imagine IM’s domestic customers in 2016 and 2017. “It will lay the foundation for our expansion, both domestically and internationally, where we anticipate a need for well over 100 tonnes of graphene per year within the next four years,” he said.

“The scientific and engineering team at Imagine IM is proud that we have taken graphene out of the research laboratory and transformed its potential into a genuine commercial application and in so doing boosted Australia’s ‘clever country’ credentials,” says Imagine IM CEO Chris Gilbey.

Geofabrics is scheduled to provide the marketplace with the first of its graphene coated geotextile products in August this year. The products will be manufactured at Geofabrics’ facility in Albury, NSW.

General Manager, Brendan Swifte said his company was confident in Imagine IM’s ability to quality assure the product and the supply chain. “We believe that our bidim® geotextile with graphene coating is a ‘game changer’ for the geotextile industry. It will be a high tech solution at an extremely competitive price.”

Mr Gilbey says Imagine IM is currently discussing international licensing agreements for its graphene technologies in the United States.

“The race to commercialise graphene has seen the launch of numerous companies in the USA, Europe and Asia, however, up till now, no company has been able to develop a product that delivers at industrial scale the potential that has been indicated in research labs.”

More information

ImaginIM Chief Operating Officer Phil Aitchison will outline the opportunities for graphene at a forum hosted by Composites Australia in Melbourne on Wednesday 26 October 2016. Visit the event page for details ...