Researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), UOW and the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF), led by Professor David Officer and Distinguished Professor Gordon Wallace, have developed a new form of graphene, called Edge Functionalized Graphene (EFG), that is both highly conductive and processable.

EFG has reportedly been demonstrated to have high utility in energy storage (both for batteries and supercapacitors), as well as in composites for use as sensors, reinforcement materials or non-metallic conductors. Further applications in biomedical engineering are also under investigation.

The researchers are now working with Sicona Battery Technologies, a private next-generation battery material company, to demonstrate scale-up of production. Sicona has executed binding agreements with UOW for the acquisition of all its intellectual property related to EFG.

Sicona develops battery materials used in the anodes and cathodes of Li-ion batteries that enable electric-mobility and storage of renewable energy.

“Like many materials, finding a way to exploit the extraordinary properties of graphene in useful applications is critically dependent on making the graphene processable,” Professor Officer said.

“With EFG, we have been able to not only create a process that produces a unique graphene that can be used as a powder, dough, paste or dispersion, but a process that we believe is commercially scalable. Our commercial partners Sicona have recognized this.”

ACES Director Professor Gordon Wallace said: “This material, EFG, was discovered in our labs in 2017 and we have since tackled the fundamental research questions around determining what it actually is and, in parallel, issues that will assist translation, including simplifying the manufacturing process.”

“Taking amazing discoveries out of the research lab and into industry is a complex process. Often, we do not have common interests nor agree on the best way forward. But for different reasons we want to get great technologies to those that can use it, so everyone wins.”

Sicona founder and CEO, Christiaan Jordaan said: “The UOW graphene IP (EFG) will enable us to produce even better quality battery materials through adding EFG to enhance the electrical conductivity of the materials. It’s a simple and highly scalable production process that yields this unique EFG material, we believe it has a bright future in the rapidly growing battery market – cost-effective large-scale synthesis is absolutely key to success.

“Leveraging the highly qualified researchers and the world-class labs at UOW will ensure that we move fast and that we successfully commercialize these inventions. This outcome would not have happened without the continual support we received from UOW Innovation and Commercial Research Unit who guided us along the journey.”

The technology is patent pending in 12 international jurisdictions and will be further enhanced under a 2-year research and collaboration agreement with UOW focused on process scale-up and application of EFG in batteries as well as a thermal conductivity enhancer.

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) Professor Jennifer L Martin said: “The cutting-edge electromaterials discovery by Professor David Officer and Distinguished Professor Gordon Wallace and their team demonstrates UOW’s commitment to tackling today’s most challenging global problems. By facilitating research commercialization, UOW and ACES are creating knowledge for a better world and creating new manufacturing and industry opportunities for Australia.”