A leading Korean fiber producer called Huvis has reportedly begun to mass-produce graphene fibers.
The Company said that since graphene has such poor dispersibility, synthesis with PET (polyester) polymer is not considered easy. As a result, according to Huvis, most of the graphene fibers developed so far have either substandard graphene content, or the fiber is coated with a graphene material - which Huvis says makes them inferior (and is the reason that the graphene fibers available in the market are black or gray).
Seoul National University Smart Nano Venture developed a process that allows separating graphene as 'superparticles'. The Smart Nano research team reportedly developed a process for single-layer, high-purity graphene in 2018, and further developed liquid graphene, not powder-type, in 2019.
Afterwards, NeoEnpla from Hwaseong/Korea, an environment-friendly plastics developer, received the graphene from Smart Nano, and from there developed the graphene masterbatch for fiber production. NeoEnpla used its proprietary technology for combining a heterogeneous material, called MEPPS (Mechanical Engineering & Polymer Processing System) that it had developed independently, to succeed with a stable combination of graphene with PET polymer.
Huvis and NeoEnpla have been producing graphene fiber on a pilot basis since March 2020. After having conducted 7 tests to increase the purity of the graphene, they finally succeeded in developing high-purity graphene fibers.
Huvis makes mass-producible graphene fiber by adding 1-5 layers of separated graphene. It is possible to use high-purity graphene to produce white-color yarns, and thanks to its excellent dyeability, it is possible to produce fabrics of various colors.
In March 2021, Huvis and NeoEnpla signed an MOU for the mass-production of graphene fibers and for the deployment of various differentiated products. This MOU will enable Huvis to receive exclusive supplies of graphene master batches for fiber over the next 5 years. The two companies are also planning to continuously conduct joint promotion both at home and abroad in addition to further R&D to expand graphene yarns.
As graphene fibers will have an antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral function, and the far infrared ray emission and antistatic function are semi-permanent without any special processing, it could have an infinite range of applicability. In the antibacterial test, the death rate of Staphylococcus aureus and pneumococcus was 99.9 % before and after washing demonstrating how graphene fiber is highly antibacterial. In the anti-viral test, Influenza A virus was reduced by 99.85 %, and the material’s UV blocking rate and far infrared emissivity were also excellent above the standard.
The graphene fiber is, however, still under development. The 2 companies are using the characteristics of the graphene fiber they have developed to produce functional clothes, medical goods, bedding, and masks on a trial basis, and are aiming to develop conductive fibers, which can be used as special work clothes in the semiconductor process, by increasing the graphene content.