Graphene has long been heralded as a wonder material – almost from the time Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov used scotch tape to peel individual layers of the material off a chunk of graphite in 2004. What sounds like a 6th Grade science fair experiment won the physicists the Nobel Prize in 2010.
In the dozen years since then, graphene has become one of the stars of nanotechnology, hailed for its ability to conduct electricity and exhibit exceptional durability and strength, according to the National Science Foundation.
However as Simon Moores, founder and CEO of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence predicted on the ARPN blog a decade ago, “the road to wide scale commercialization and unlocking the true potential of graphene” has been “long and hazardous.”
The challenges notwithstanding, the materials science revolution has marched on, and today, the graphene space is bustling. One of the pioneers in graphene development as an early recipient of federal funding via National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants and U.S. Army SBIR contracts, Jessup, Maryland-based Vorbeck Materials Corp., currently holds more than 100 patents as its two primary graphene products, VOR-X and VOR-INK, find broad application in a variety of sectors and products.
And while it may well be a wonder material that can enhance innumerable applications ranging from “puncture-resistant footwear and wearable electronics to spray-on electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding for electronics and high-performance antennas,” as Shane Lasley writes for Metal Tech News, it is of course not “fairy dust.”
As ARPN has frequently outlined, you “need stuff to make stuff,” and graphene is derived from graphite – a critical mineral the market for which has long been dominated by China.
A just-announced partnership between Vorbeck Materials and Graphite One, Inc., owner of the Graphite Creek deposit near Nome, Alaska, recently recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey as the largest U.S. graphite deposit and among the largest in the world, could help change the narrative.
Vorbeck Materials is looking “to meet unique defense and commercial requirements with Graphite One’s high grade, US sourced graphite for advanced graphite and graphene applications.”
At a time when geopolitical tensions are riding high, the partnership may represent an important piece of the puzzle as the U.S. and it Western allies continue step up their efforts to decouple from China.