Achieving Large Scale Production of Graphene and Graphene Products

Founded in November 2011 in Changzhou, China, The Sixth Element Group is a world-leading manufacturer of graphene oxide, reduced graphene oxide and graphene. Production at the site of the headquarters in Changzhou began in 2011.

The site now has a total capacity of 400 t/a and accommodates the group’s central application and R&D lab, which houses all basic materials developments and application-oriented tasks.

The site in Changzhou had limited expansion possibilities, and so it was decided that the group would open an entirely new production site with long term expansion possibilities in Nantong, China.

The new site, named The Sixth Element (Nantong) Materials Technology Co, Ltd, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Sixth Element (Changzhou) Materials Technology Co, Ltd.

Nantong facility of The Sixth Element group.

Figure 1. Nantong facility of The Sixth Element group. Image Credit: The Sixth Element (Changzhou) Materials Technology Co.,Ltd.

The site also has an integrated branch of the R&D department focused on process development. The new, specialized department has already successfully applied for more than 30 patents in China, 4 of which have been already granted.

The development work has resulted in an optimized production process for manufacturing graphene oxide and graphene, based on the oxidation-reduction process - a modified Hummer’s process.

Compared to the standard Hummer’s process described in the literature, by utilizing special dissociation technology combined with improvements in the graphite intercalation step, a much lower demand for oxidation chemicals has been achieved.

There is a special focus on reducing the amount of water used and reusing the oxidation chemicals.

At the Nantong site, The Sixth Element group is currently capable of reusing approximate 70% of the sulfuric acid and some potassium permanganate in the next oxidation cycle. This minimizes the amount of acidic waste-water to be treated in the waste water plant.

Highly automated production supports production efficiency and product quality. The newer Nantong facility has significantly higher levels of automatization compared to the older production site in Changzhou.

Automated production-safer and more efficient.

Figure 2. Automated production-safer and more efficient. Image Credit: The Sixth Element (Changzhou) Materials Technology Co.,Ltd.

The key to the investments of The Sixth Element group in Nantong lies in the advancements of in process and production technology. To establish a total capacty of 1950 t/a in Nantong, 60 Mio € is currently being spent in 2 steps: 450 t for graphene and 1500 t for graphene oxide.

The first phase of investments finished in May 2020; these established a capacity of 650 t/a in Nantong, which brought the current total capacity of The Sixth Element group to 1000 t/a.

There is 500 t/a of the 650 t/a dedicated solely to graphene oxide, while 150 t/a of reduced graphene and graphene oxide can be produced. It is expected that the second phase of the investments in Nantong will be completed in mid-2022.

The production process in Nantong has proved to be reliable and stable as site qualifications with important customers have already been finalized in the second half of 2020.

The Sixth Element group works in tandem with both downstream users and strategic partners to establish a graphene eco-system to provide graphene, reduced graphene oxide and graphene oxide.

The Sixth Element, working with FUXI Technology (Changzhou), established a heat dissipation film based on a special type SE2430W. Heat dissipation film is commonly used in smartphones and other electronic devices.

The Sixth Element offers the easy-to-use filler systems SE5133/SE5143 for thermal conductive coating applications on metal surfaces.

SE2430W-N has proven to be very good for protecting against corrosive attacks and enhancing mechanical properties in concrete.

The Sixth Element has proved through systematic research that SE1233 and SE1132 are valuable graphene types for use in corrosion protection formulations. Both products are also available in Europe as resin-based, solvent-based and water-based suspension.

SE1233 has good electrical conductivity, and so it is also used in applications where electrical conductivity is required, such as coatings and inks.

SE1430 - a reduced graphene oxide with a medium oxygen content - is able to improve the mechanical properties of polymer composites.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by The Sixth Element (Changzhou) Materials Technology Co.,Ltd.

For more information on this source, please visit The Sixth Element (Changzhou) Materials Technology Co.,Ltd.

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