Recently, a team of researchers from Graphene Flagship partner Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Italy and Italian luxury design company, Momodesign participated in a collaborative project where they built a motorcycle helmet that includes graphene technology. A graphene coating helps distribute the force of an impact thereby making the helmet less susceptible to damage compared to helmets that do not have graphene. This can also be experienced even in high temperature conditions. The result is a helmet that enhances safety and thermal comfort.
Marco Cattaneo, president of Momodesign states “I started to read publications about graphene with curiosity and interest,” said Cattaneo, who was also developing ideas for applying graphene technologies to “improve products in which safety is the most important aspect.” Working in unison was a natural process. “We needed just 5 minutes to get in sync with Marco,” said Vittorio Pellegrini, Director of the Graphene Labs at IIT. “In the following days we set out the roadmap of our collaboration and after one month we started to work in the labs.” Pellegrini is also leader of the Energy Storage Work Package of the Graphene Flagship and chair of its executive board.
The Graphene Flagship is involved in promoting a number of graphene-based technologies to marketable applications. Kari Hjelt is the leader of the Innovation Work Package, and a member of the Flagship’s executive board. Of this partnership, he said “The Graphene Labs at IIT collaboration with Momodesign is a prime example of bringing the latest graphene-based technologies from laboratory to industry applications. In its quest to create economic growth and technological innovations, the Graphene Flagship aims to foster agile cooperation projects with industry stakeholders.”
The Graphene Labs at IIT were founded in 2014 as a world-class research center in graphene and related materials. Innovation and industrial partnership are key principles, and the Graphene Labs provide a shared facility for Italian manufacturing companies who are interested in graphene.
We have tens of industrial collaborations and we receive requests from European companies that wish to develop graphene-based products every day. These activities are essential to test the benefits of graphene in commercial products, helping us to bring graphene technology from the laboratory to the market.
A spin-out company, Bedimensional, enables Graphene Labs to support commercialization of graphene technology.
From Lab to Fab
As a partner of the Graphene Flagship, Graphene Labs are involved in many of the Flagship’s chief research areas, including composites, energy, biotechnology, and optoelectronics applications of graphene. The design of the graphene helmet - from concept to production – would not have been achievable within such a limited period of time without the support of the Graphene Flagship. The Graphene Flagship funding helped a speedy transition from lab to fab.
Momodesign is a luxury lifestyle design company that specializes in motorcycle helmets and luxury accessories such as watches and sunglasses with a design that reflects their Italian racing heritage. Besides its own product lines, Momodesign is known for its history of partnership work with other companies spanning several different areas, focusing on novelty and new technologies. The partnership with Graphene Labs is a continuation of this tradition.
This is our formula: to bring together invention and innovation, functionality and beauty in order to create a truly unique product. Research has been always the true soul of the company.
Motorcycle helmets are made up of two parts – a strong exterior shell, and a shock-absorbing foam or polystyrene inner part. In the new helmet, graphene is added into the exterior shell as a coating, and provides a protective effect to the helmet’s inner materials. Pellegrini explains this effect as a graphene shelter: Graphene’s superior heat-conductive properties disperse heat swiftly across the helmet, and protect the inner materials from degradation due to heat.
A preliminary set of 3000 helmets have been manufactured to be sold via specialty markets and top motoring showrooms. The helmets are fabricated in a manufacturing outlet in northern Italy, where the graphene-coating process has been incorporated directly into the regular production line.
We had to work very hard on each step of this process. Taking into account costs and delays in production due to the additional coating procedure, but finally we developed a process fully compatible with that used by Momodesign for their standard helmets.
As a first step in the manufacturing process, graphene powder is produced using few- and multi-layer graphene flakes. This powder is then mixed into a solution. Finally this solution is spray-coated on the exterior shell of the helmets.
The graphene shelter technology is the first target of the partnership between Graphene Labs and Momodesign. “Our aims for the future are to continue evolving as a company with the development of other graphene helmets,” said Cattaneo. Going forward, the researchers will be working to incorporate graphene into the inner plastic materials of the helmet. In this way, they aim to realize the same level of safety with a thinner helmet and enhance comfort for the wearer.
This is an excellent example of what is at the core of the Graphene Flagship mission: to take graphene, related layered materials and hybrids from a state of raw potential to a point where they can revolutionize multiple industries, with a manifold return on the European investment, both in terms of technological innovation and economic exploitation. Over the next few years we will see more and more products enabled by graphene reaching the market, thanks to the support of the Graphene Flagship.
Andrea Ferrari, Chair of the Graphene Flagship Management Panel and the Flagship’s Science and Technology Officer