Graphene: Additive or Filler?
As the name suggests an additive enhances a product. The presence of an additive makes your product better in some specific way. If this enhancement creates something that your customers value – and are willing to pay extra to have – then you just might have business success on your hands.
A filler can bring business success too. Usually by replacing more expensive ingredients, preferably in a way no one notices, so you can make more profit from your product at the same price.
A new market entry
We all know that graphene is 200 times stronger than steel, flexible, conducts electricity and heat, as well as being transparent. Small wonder that many new products containing graphene are appearing on the market.
The latest venture landed in my inbox this week, you’ll probably have seen the press releases about a new graphene containing paint from a company called Graphenstone
I had a closer look at the product. The basic paint seems to be perfectly fine. It is based on lime. Lime based paints are a well-established technology. I have lime paint on the walls of the cellar in my house and this has lasted over 100 years. The graphenstone paint seems to have a good track record too and is used on some landmark buildings around the world
So far so good. Then I started to look at the company’s claims for graphene in their paint. It seems that their paint contains graphene fibres.
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Graphene fibres are an interesting development, first reported in 2012, they are made from graphene oxide that is wet spun into a bath containing a coagulant. The resulting fibre is then reduced to create graphene fibre. I’ll write a separate column to explore graphene fibres in more detail, as they are not that well known.
Back to the product. So what are these fibres doing in the paint? I looked at the publicity material Graphenstone provides. “As graphene is a conductive material, the paint improves the thermal regulation of buildings, saving energy by requiring less heating and air conditioning.”
I was curious to know how painting a thermally conductive layer would save energy. A director of the company was quoted saying “…rather than heat being radiated through the walls, the graphene within the paint captures the heat. It then conducts the heat through the paint, and across the whole Graphenstone-painted surface of interior walls. This enhances the insulation measures used in buildings by slowing heat conduction through walls and out of building”
So I asked Graphenestone how they know this. I sent their technical department a message asking them if they could share their experimental data showing the energy saving performance of their paint with and without graphene. This is the basic experiment I would have commissioned if I were in the technical department of the paint company.
To the credit of Graphenestone, their technical department promptly contacted me back. Some of the test results were confidential so they referred me to their technical data on thermal conductivity. They also gave me a link to a video showing the performance of the paint with and without the graphene additive. This is all encouraging experimental evidence.
The difference between a real graphene application and marketing hype is something rather simple. It is called proof.
I’m all in favour of supporting companies who are using graphene in innovative ways. I like to be sure that the graphene really is present as a performance additive rather than just filler.
Adrian Nixon began his career as a scientist and is a Chartered Chemist and Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry. As a scientist and ... <Read more about Adrian Nixon>