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Expect Graphene to Make its Mark in Multiple Markets

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 14. July 2015

 

There has been a lot of buzz about graphene in recent times and for good reason.  A material stronger and stiffer than carbon fiber, graphene is thought to have enormous commercial potential, but has been impractical to use on a large scale, with researchers limited to using small flakes of the material. Graphene has been making some major progress, however. In the form of oxides or nanoplatelets, graphene is in a better position to fulfill market needs, as it is a durable, stretchable and lightweight material. Here are some examples of the ‘buzz’ I gathered (we’d love to hear from you for more on this):

 

PT’s sister publication Composites World reported on May 18, that through use of a new chemical vapor deposition method, a team of researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, Tenn., have fabricated polymer composites containing 51-mm by 51-mm (2.01-in. by 2.01-in) sheets of the one-atom thick hexagonally arranged carbon atoms.

 

The ORNL team is led by Ivan Vlassiouk, who noted that up until their recent work, the superb mechanical properties of graphene had been shown only at a micro scale. “We have extended this to a larger scale, which considerably extends the potential applications and market for graphene…..In our case, we were able to use chemical vapor deposition to make a nanocomposite laminate that is electrically conductive with graphene loading that is 50 times less compared to current state-of-the-art samples. This is a key to making the material competitive in the market.”

 

The team’s use of the larger sheets of graphene versus the use of tiny flakes of graphene or other carbon nanomaterials as are traditionally used for polymer nanocomposite construction, eliminates the flake dispersion and agglomeration problems and allows the material to better conduct electricity with less actual graphene in the polymer.  If the ORNL team can reduce the cost and demonstrate scalability, researchers envision graphene being used in: aerospace (structural monitoring, flame retardants, anti-icing, conductive); automotive (catalysts, wear-resistant coatings); and, structural applications (self-cleaning coatings, temperature control materials). Other areas include: electronics (displays, printed electronics, thermal management); energy (photovoltaics, filtration, energy storage); and, manufacturing (catalysts, barrier coatings, filtration.

 

The new Frost & Sullivan study, “Impact Assessment of Graphene in Key Sectors” expects market revenues to reach $149.1 million by 2020. One of the prime markets for graphene has been the energy sector and it will remain so for the next three years, according to technical insights research analyst Sanchari Chatterjee. “Lithium storage and catalytic system substrates are some of the most demanding application areas of graphene. However, other applications such as energy storage for batteries and capacitors have also been identified.

 

In the electronics sector, graphene is replacing materials like indium tin oxide. While graphene is widely used in flexible electronics, it can further penetrate this sector for the production of minute electronic components and optoelectronics. Moreover, according to this analysis, the adoption of graphene in the electronics and composites sector will increase within the next three to five years, while during the same time, new markets such as healthcare and personal care are expected to open up for graphene.

 

The absence of large-scale graphene production in a cost-effective and reproducible manner has made commercialization a challenge but Chatterjee says, “Manufacturers are designing several economical and large-scale production processes to ensure that high-quality graphene can be produced within a short time. This can significantly reduce commercialization challenges.”

 

Although graphene is among the thinnest yet strongest materials in the world, its structural design creates flaws when made into sheets for use in energy applications. This compromises performance, Further, the zero band gap of graphene is a major technical drawback as it limits the achievable on-off current ratios, notes Chatterjee.

 

With the reliability of standalone graphene in doubt, there is ongoing research to customize graphene to enable manufacturers to use it in its reinforced and hybrid forms. Overall, corrective R&D and innovative commercialization techniques can help realize the tremendous potential of graphene that ranges from applications in biomedical to anti-corrosion coatings, according to this analysis.

 

As reported in a February 19 blog, among the ‘starring’ companies that were a part of the NPE2015 Startup Garage, a partnership of SPI and new-venture tracking firm Startup.Directory, was Garmor Inc., Orlando, Fla. The company’s focus: graphene priced for high-volume plastics applications. At NPE2015, Garmor displayed samples of its low-cost graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide as well as products made with graphene oxide polymer and fiberglass composites. Such composites can be used in applications ranging from automotive, aerospace, and military to consumer electronics, medical, and construction.

 

Although initial work has been with epoxy-based and other thermoset composites, the company has data on its work with graphene-reinforced thermoplastics such as HDPE and PC, and is actively seeking interested companies in the thermoplastic arena to further its development. Polymers enhanced with Garmor’s graphene oxide reportedly show a dramatic increase in mechanical and electrical performance.  Garmor’s partnership with the University of Central Florida (UCF), have played an integral role in perfecting a method to optimize the incorporation of graphene in various polymer, composite materials and coatings, according to v.p. of engineering Sean Christiansen.

 

Garmor’s biggest feat is its ability to manufacture low-cost graphene oxide in large volumes. This ‘green’ and novel manufacturing technology was developed at UCF by Richard Blair, a researcher in the College of Sciences and the Center for Advanced Turbine and Energy Research, and subsequently licensed to Garmor for further enhancement. The end result is said to be a simple but effective method of producing edge-functionalized graphene oxide with only water as a by-product; essentially, a ‘green’ additive suitable for large-scale production at commodity type prices. Garmor has focused on testing the use of graphene in downstream products to facilitate product acceptance. Essentially, it has been devising ‘simple’ recipes that potential customers can use to produce advanced graphene-based materials, according to Christiansen.

 

Meanwhile, though unrelated to plastic composites, what may possibly be the first commercially viable product to use the super-strong carbon—a light bulb--is slated to go on sale later this year. Designed at UK’s Manchester University, where the material was discovered ***, the dimmable bulb contains a filament-shaped LED coated in graphene and is said to cut energy use by 10% and last longer owing to its conductivity.

 

The light bulb was developed by a Canadian-financed company, Graphene Lighting, with one of its directors being Professor Colin Bailey, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Manchester. The light bulb is expected to be priced lower than some LED bulbs. Based on traditional light bulb design, the use of graphene allows it to conduct electricity and heat more effectively.

 

Also important to note: Earlier this year, the UK government made a $59-million investment in opening the ‘National Graphene Institute in Manchester’, via its Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, with an additional $36-million provided by the European Regional Development Fund.  Chancellor George Osborn, who opened the site on March 20, said he hoped the UK can set off competition from China and South Korea to become the center of excellence in graphene technology. More than 35 countries have already partnered with the university to develop projects. The race is now on to develop other practical and commercial uses, including lighter but more robust car and aircraft frames and false teeth. The material has also been incorporated into products such as tennis rackets and skis.

 

*** The discovery of graphene in 2004 by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, two Russian-born scientists at the University of Manchester, earned the pair the Nobel Prize for Physics and knighthoods. A micro-thin layer of graphene is stronger than steel and it has been dubbed a “wonder material” because of its potential use.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastics Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

Will Rise of Benzene Prices Impact Those of Nylons, ABS & PC as They Have PS?

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 13. July 2015

 

July benzene contract prices settled up by a whopping 80ȼ/gal to $3.05/gal, and polystyrene suppliers were quick to issue price hikes of 6-8ȼ/lb on PS resins, effective July 1. This was a reversal from June, when benzene contract prices dropped by 59ȼ/gal., and PS prices dropped by 5ȼ/lb.

 

This latest benzene price trajectory is due to snugger domestic supply which has resulted from a combination of improved downstream demand for benzene and a sharp drop in benzene imports. Mark Kallman, v.p. of client services for engineering resins, PS, and PVC at Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi), Fort Worth, Texas, ventures this supply tightness will last through August. He anticipates some relief from higher benzene prices with the potential return of imports.

 

In the meantime, it would not be surprising to see similar moves emerge on prices of some key commodity engineering resins, as was the case with nylon 6 earlier this week. BASF,  DSM,  and Honeywell  have each issued price increases on their nylon 6 resins. Effective dates, respectively, are: July 15, July 24, July 20--or, as contracts allow, Nylon 6 suppliers had been out with a 5ȼ/lb increase for June, but that attempt lost its legs following the drop in June benzene contracts.

 

So far, there have been no official price nominations for nylon 66. Kallman had projected generally flat pricing to continue for nylon 66 from second quarter into the third; this before the July benzene contract increase.

 

Also, while the domestic nylon 66 supply/demand has been characterized as relatively balanced by Kallman, that balance includes nylon 66 materials imported to the North American market by BASF. As previously reported, BASF declared force majeure at its Seals Sands, UK facility on June 17. The company cited production problems and noted that it was not in a position to predict how long this would last. Affected products includes the company’s Ultramid A and Capron PA 66 resins and compounds.

 

Possible actions could be forthcoming from suppliers of ABS and PC. In the case of ABS, suppliers were out with a 4ȼ/lb increase, effective June 1, but that did not materialize due to the decline of the June benzene contract price.

 

In the case of PC, there were some price increase attempts during second quarter; this following a 2-8% decline through first quarter until benzene prices bottomed out.  Those second quarter attempts ended up falling by the wayside. In June, Kallman explained it to me this way: the domestic market is a well-balanced one (including lower-priced imports due to a global PC overcapacity) with feedstock prices well below 2014. This, of course, did not include the reversal of benzene contract prices now taking place.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastics Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

Addressing Color Management Issues

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 6. July 2015

 

I thought it worth blogging about an interesting new blog recently launched by one of the leading players of color measurement systems, X-Rite Pantone of Grand Rapids, Mich. With color such an integral part of a plastic product’s appeal, having a blog that is devoted to issues of color management can only be a plus. So here, is an abbreviated version of some issues already discussed—or, blogged about, by X-Rite pros:

 

Color Perception: The Impact in Manufacturing

Here, X-Rite takes a detailed look at the science of color in manufacturing and photography. How does an object’s reflective and absorptive properties or viewing technology impact the colors we perceive? The colors an object absorbs and reflects is determined by its material—is it plastic, metal, or fabric? What are the dyes or inks used to “color” it? Changing the material of the object or the formulation of dyes and inks will change the reflective values, and therefore color we see.

 

10 Tips for Visually Evaluating Color

Judging color is more than just measuring samples with a color measurement device—lighting plays a crucial role. Have you ever purchased a new shirt or household item only to discover that the color looked different in the store? This is due to different lighting conditions. Color process controls should include visual evaluation in a light booth. X-Rite says this is especially important if you are producing different parts for the same product, because they need to match in the factory, as well as outside, in a fluorescent-lit store, and wherever else they’ll be seen once they enter the world. X-Rite provides tips on brand owners and manufacturers can get the most out of a visual evaluation process.

 

Using Spectrophotometers for Manufacturing

Color is critical to any manufacturing process. Consumer products are made up of different materials that all have to come together through color. But getting color right isn’t easy. Color moves through the supply chain, among machines, materials, printers and manufacturing sites. As a result, color can quickly shift away from the original intent. Inaccurate color means rework and lost time and dollars. Spectrophotometers allow brand owners to measure and specify color using a universal language—spectral values—and to share the information with their suppliers. Suppliers use spectrophotometers to monitor color accuracy during manufacturing to ensure that it remains exact.

 

Munsell Color Standards for Industrial

Munsell Color Standards are used for more than just design and ‘fine art’. They are also used to ensure safety and reliability, and to maintain compliance with federal regulations. Did you know:

           

  • The USDA and numerous private food processors rely on Munsell’s Color Standards for accurate grading and sorting of food.
  • Aerospace suppliers and wire & cable manufacturers use Munsell Color Standards to communicate with each other, to comply with government regulations, and to ensure the safety and reliability of electrical products.
  • Munsell worked with the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association (NEMA) to develop the NEMA Safety Color Standard family

 

 

First Totally Biodegradable Fishing Lure Soon to Debut

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 2. July 2015

 

What is said to be the first-ever, totally biodegradable freshwater fishing lure will be making its debut at the Convention of Allied Sportsfishing Trade Show (ICAST), being held July 14-17 at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center.

 

Injection molded by Rat-L-Trap of Alexandria, La., the new fishing lures are made from 100% Nodax PHA from biopolymer producer MHG, Bainbridge, Ga., which has plans to give out 150 lures at this event. These lures have been shown to perform as well as its conventional plastic counterparts.

 

The Nodax PHA is reportedly the first bioplastic ever to be Vincotte Certified for Marine Biodegradability. It is also certified to biodegrade completely in freshwater, as well as soil and industrial composting. These certifications pave the way for the fishing industry to convert to using biodegradable plastic for certain products.

 

Says MHG’s CEO Paul Pereira, “As an avid fisherman, I’ve seen first hand the plastic pollution in the ocean. When you think of all the fishermen out there, and how many lures get lost each season, it is hard to think of all that plastic that will sit in the ocean for hundreds of years to come. The same thing applies to fresh water fishing but in a larger scale. With these biodegradable lures powered by MHG, pollution that is a result of the fishing industry can be reduced.”

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastics Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

First Ocean-Cleaning System Set to Deploy in 2016

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 30. June 2015

 

 

For any of you that have attended conferences on plastics recycling over the last few years, I’m certain you have noticed the presentations on the issue of plastics in our oceans…oftentimes accompanied by some very sobering slide shows showing the debri and its devastation on wildlife.

Now, what is certainly the world’s first ocean cleaning-system, is fast approaching its deployment. Invented by Boyan Slat, the 20-year old founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, this system involves a static platform that passively corrals plastics as wind and ocean current push debris through 2000-meter booms.  

Says Slat, “Taking care of the world’s ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today. Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This deployment will enable us to study the system’s efficiency and durability over time.”

Plans for the array’s deployment is currently for second quarter of 2016. The feasibility of deployment, off the coast of Tsushima, an island located in the waters between Japan and South Korea is currently being researched.

The system will span 2000 meters, which will make it the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean—beating the current record of 1000 meters held by the Tokyo Mega-Float airplane runway. It will be operational for at least two years, catching plastic pollution before it reaches the shores of the proposed Tsushima Island deployment location. Tsushima Island is evaluating whether the plastic can be used as an alternative energy source.

This initial deployment will represent an important milestone in The Ocean Cleanup’s mission to remove plastic pollution from the world’s oceans. Within five years, after a series of deployments of increasing scale, The Ocean Cleanup plans to deploy a 100km-long system to clean up about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California.
 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastics Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

 

 




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