By Will Soutter
The University of Manchester is well-known as the place where graphene was invented - now it has stepped into the commercial realm with 2-DTech, a new spin-out aiming to commercialize high quality graphene and accelerate the development of graphene-based products.
2-DTech is based in the University of Manchester's graphene research center - one of the world's foremost centers for graphene expertise, and the site of the discovery of the "wonder-material" back in 2004 by Kostya Novoselov and Andrei Geim, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work in 2010.
The two Nobel laureates will be contributing their considerable expertise to the venture, which will be led by Manchester graphene researcher Dr Branson Belle.
2-DTech has assembled a cutting-edge fabrication facility for graphene and other 2D materials, which it will be shipping to customers across the world, as well as supplying researchers at the University.
The company will also offer additional services such as business consultancy and product testing for industrial partners looking to work with graphene.
There have been countless suggested applications for graphene, from flexible touch screens to photovoltaic paint.
A very small number of these are reaching the early commercial phases, but many have yet to be realized outside of laboratory proof-of-concepts. Dr Belle comments:
“At 2-DTech, we provide graphene solutions to enable the graphene revolution to happen. Given that Manchester is the home of the industrial revolution, it is quite fitting that the graphene revolution began here.” - Dr Branson Belle, 2-DTech
2-DTech say that their graphene materials will help companies to bring products to market faster, due to their higher quality and consistency.
In the future, they will also expand to provide other 2D materials - these can include things like molybdenum disulfide, and boron nitride, and have had some interest from the research community due to their varied electrical properties.
Graphene is an excellent electrical conductor, but in order to created integrated electronic devices, 2D semiconductors and insulators will also be needed - 2-DTech plans to supply the full range of materials that manufacturers will need.
For now, however, 2-DTech is focusing on graphene - they offer single-layer graphene sheets manufactured by Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) on a range of substrates, as well as exfoliated graphene platelets in a liquid dispersion or laminated into a paper-like sheet.
They also offer graphene oxide, and complete graphene-based heterostructured device for prototyping. This consists of CVD graphene on a 20-50nm layer of 2D boron nitride, all on a silica substrate. The device comes complete with gold contacts for making electrical measurements, and can be customized for specific devices or applications.
With growing interest and investment in graphene, there are a number of manufacturers of the material who are all trying to put their own signature on the technology. With such expertise at its disposal, it will be interesting to see what 2-DTech will be able to achieve.