Igniting Material Change

At first read, it sounds like something out of a utopian novel. Indeed, this seemingly faultless “supermaterial of the future” could meet the world’s demand for improved nanomaterials overnight. But this supermaterial transcends illusion into a new, forthcoming reality, as it is almost completely transparent, more elastic than rubber, and only one-atom-thick. 

The material in question, of course, is graphene.

Typically, those which are deemed monumental discoveries in material sciences were first preceded by a long integration process for day-to-day application. For example, while aluminum was discovered in the eighteen-twenties, it didn’t find its place for everyday use — in pots and pans, for example — until after World War I. A unique quality of graphene, on the other hand, is that we already know exactly how we would apply it in our lifetime. Wiring a house? Graphene conducts electricity thirteen times better than copper. Air travel disrupted due to inclement and icy conditions? A film of graphene on the exterior of a plane could heat to melt ice in seconds. How do we fuel the future of space travel? Graphene’s ability to collect solar power could make it possible to explore the cosmos far and wide with nothing other than sunlight. Did you think that diamonds were the hardest material known to man? Think again. Graphene can and will enhance virtually every aspect of our lives, from shatterproof touchscreens, to non-toxic hair color, to higher integrity bulletproof vests.

This isn’t a distant future; a world amalgamated by graphene is just a handful of years away. Experts foresee the integration of graphene to branch out beyond niche markets into broader applications as soon as 2025. So if graphene is so advantageous in virtually every aspect of our lives, what’s the hold up?

A good starting point would be to ask, is all graphene the same? The simple answer is no. Graphene is a sheet-like substance made of carbon atoms bonded together in a repeating, hexagonal structure. This “monolayer” graphene, as it is commonly referred to, is considered to be in the highest echelon of quality and performance. Monolayer graphene performs with the lowest potential for failure and is by far the easiest to work with, making it usable in a broader range of applications. Those eager to exploit the benefits of graphene are looking for these traits to support their ambitions in innovation. However, producing single layer graphene in high yields is an exceedingly difficult and expensive venture that wreaks havoc on the environment. It’s a conundrum as old as time: the most coveted things are hard to get and come at a high cost. 

You might be asking yourself, if monolayer graphene is so arduous to obtain, why not produce several-layer graphene? After all we are talking about “super” materials, so wouldn’t more equal better? This is where the chemistry gets interesting. If there’s anything we’ve learned about graphene, it’s that this nanomaterial is a beacon of the future, not to be treated like prized commodities of the past. And a modern problem requires a modern solution — meet turbostratic graphene. 

Turbostratic graphene consists of multiple layers with interlayer rotations, resulting in a crystal structure in which the basal planes have actually slipped out of alignment. This misalignment restores an electronic structure indicative of monolayer graphene to a multi-layer composition. In short: turbostratic graphene functions as a monolayer, but is easier and more cost effective to produce.  So while they are structurally different, monolayer and turbostratic graphene are equally superior and can be used in the same broad range of applications. 

But just because turbostratic graphene is easier to manufacture relative to the challenges associated with its fraternal twin, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a host of production difficulties already at play. Currently the market is overwhelmed by inconsistent types and grades of graphene, ranging from the high quality, single-layer variety to mere flakes being harvested from graphite and sold in bulk quantities. More often than not, buyers are experiencing the latter, leaving some manufacturers frustrated by mismarketed graphite. The more exorbitant methodologies, like Chemical Vapor Deposition, result in high quality 2D sheets of carbon but offer no ability to be easily scaled. On the contrary, Graphene Oxide Exfoliation is feasible for mass production, but at the risk of compromising on consistency and quality. If the obstacles weren’t already glaring enough, all of the mentioned approaches require chemicals and solvents that generate toxic emissions. 

In just one paragraph, graphene transforms from a glimmering superhero to an absolute let-down. Until, that is, you change the entire production process from top to bottom. 

Enter: Synthetic Detonated Graphene. 

Nicknamed “Designer Graphene” for the process’s convenient ability to precisely control the resulting product, this type of graphene is formed by forcing layers of graphene apart, through proprietary detonation technology, into a turbostratic state and trapping them there. The result is graphene that is anywhere from two to seven layers thick, but functions as the ever-so-cherished monolayer. Ready for more good news? Designer Graphene can be produced using common manufacturing feedstocks, in bulk quantities, at a low cost, and with virtually no negative impact on the environment. 

This detonation methodology is contained in a process called the HyperionSystem®. The HyperionSystem® harnesses technology that ascends the existing standard in graphene production to prove that the world can experience the infinite possibilities of this material without compromise. Designer Graphene is 99.8% pure, identical, can be done at scale, and only requires ignition by a spark — making it the most efficient process on the market. The only feedstocks needed are acetylene and oxygen, whose purity makes it possible to produce medical grade graphene batch over batch and results in low to net zero emissions. 

And this is just the beginning. The HyperionSystem® is decentralized and digitally controlled, meaning its modular design can be deployed in virtually any manufacturing footprint, is fully automated if desired, and is remotely accessible. This visionary technology accelerates the advent of a graphene-enhanced world and the HyperionSystem® is leading the charge to make quality graphene accessible and affordable to every application imaginable. Innovation in our homes, travel, healthcare, energy, and beyond already exist, but when combined with the potential of graphene, they become even more powerful. 

This is the beginning of a journey to a new reality where we will no longer have to choose between what “could be” and what is “realistically possible.” The HyperionSystem® gives us the power to explore the fullest potential of our world and write our own legends of innovation.