Moving from Labs to Industry

Pure graphene powder. Credit: Thomas Swan Ltd.

I already noted that we are fascinated by technology advances in the products we use but the most fundamental advances are those happening behind the curtains, in the backstage of industrial production processes. These are the advances that turn an amazing discovery (invention) into something we can hold in our hands.

This is the case for this news coming from the Trinity College in Ireland where a team of researchers have invented a process to produce industrial quantity of pure graphene, in a way that is not just effective in terms of volume but also very cheap (another crucial characteristics for any successful innovation).

They start with pencils (actually NO, they start with graphite, which is what the core of your pencil is made of) and using high shear mixers transform graphite flakes into graphene.

The mass production of graphene may result in the creation of new ways of wrapping food (remember, the fall out of the Lunar Program resulted in everyday things like plastic and aluminium foils as well as dehydrated food...), for extra resistant plastic, for bendable screens...

So, all good things. Well, some researchers at the Brown University have published a paper in April 2014 casting suspects on graphene as a potential hazard to human (and all life forms) health. Graphene is tinier than a virus and enters without any problem in living cells. Once inside, it is not clear what the side effects might be.

As in any new thing there are lights and shadows and it would be better to understand the shadows a bit more before moving into mass production...

Author - Roberto Saracco

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