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Graphene: Promising Mainstream Nanomaterial for Inks & Coatings

Roni Peleg – Mar 13, 2018

TAGS:  Inks      Smart Coatings 

Graphene for Inks and Coatings Graphene is made of a single layer of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a repeating pattern of beehive-like hexagons. It is about a million times thinner than paper and is a 2-dimensional material. But it is as amazing as it is thin, with an abundance of remarkable properties that earn it the title “wonder material”.

Key Facts about Graphene:

  • Thinnest and strongest material known to man
  • Excellent conductor of electricity and heat
  • Exhibits unique optical properties, anti-bacterial behavior & intriguing hydrophobic tendencies...
  • Possible applications include:
    • Batteries
    • Sensors
    • Solar cells
    • Transistors
    • Touchscreens, and more...

It is an extremely diverse material that can be combined with other elements (including gases and metals) to produce different materials with various superior properties.

Now let's look at what makes graphene an interesting material for coatings & inks market...

What can Graphene Contribute to Inks & Coatings?


Graphene’s wide array of properties can lead to many interesting types of coatings, paints, inks and more.

Graphene Handbook
  • Graphene's high resistivity can make for durable coatings that do not crack and are resistant to water and oil
  • Its excellent electrical and thermal conductivity can be used to make various conductive inks
  • Its strong barrier effect can contribute to anti-oxidant, scratch-resistant and anti-UVA coatings

Graphene enables a wide array of functional coatings and inks for many possible applications. Among these can be:

  • High-performance adhesives enabled by graphene's high adhesion property
  • Anti-bacterial coatings
  • Heat conductive coatings for electronics
  • Solar paints (capable of absorbing solar energy and transmitting it)
  • Anti-rust coatings
  • Anti-fog and UV ray blockers
  • Conductive inks for various applications
  • Non-stick coatings for many domestic applications (like frying pans and countertops), and
  • Even a much-hyped possibility (currently under scientific examination) of a coating that turns a regular wall into a screen

Graphene in Functional Coatings
Graphene in Functional Coatings


Recent Research Advances & Commercialization Initiatives


Graphene was theoretically studied back in the 1940s, but was considered impossible to exist at that time.

University of Manchester researchers Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov finally made it possible to isolate a graphene sheet. They received the Nobel Prize in physics in 2010 for their work that had started around 2002. The Nobel laureates used a simple scotch-tape method. But, since then scientific interest and efforts rose and both production methods and possible applications have developed dramatically.

Researchers all over the world continue to constantly investigate and patent graphene to learn its various properties and possible applications.

Let’s take a look at the interesting R&D advances seen recently.


#1. Graphene-Zinc Anti-corrosion Primer


China-based, The Sixth Element Materials launched its graphene-zinc anti-corrosion primer back in 2015 together with partner Toppen Technology, and the company has since performed extensive testing. In November 2017, TSE updated that the material has been deployed in China and has been used to cover several bridges and wind-turbines steel towers.

Graphene-Zinc Anti-corrosion Primer
Graphene-Zinc Anti-corrosion Primer


The Sixth Element reports that by adding 1% of graphene, one could reduce the zinc content in current anti-corrosion coatings from ~80% to 25%. And the corrosion protection time is doubled. Reducing the zinc also means that this solution is less polluting. The main cost savings comes from the prolonged coating life which means that the time between coating renewal (which requires a lot of labor) is doubled.


#2. Graphene-based Coatings for Desalination Membranes


In September 2017, an international group of researchers, including scientists from Shinshu University in Japan and Penn State’s ATOMIC Center, created a graphene and graphene oxide-based coating for desalination membranes. This coating is said to be more scalable and sturdier than current nanofiltration membrane technologies available.

The result of this creation would hopefully be a filter for:

  • Clean water solutions
  • Protein separation
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Pharmaceutical and food industry applications

This membrane uses a simple spray-on technology to coat a mixture of graphene oxide and graphene in solution onto a backbone support membrane of polysulfone that is modified with polyvinyl alcohol. The team reports that even in the early stages of the development of the membrane, it can already reject 85% of salt and 96% of dye molecules. The 85% rejection of salt is sufficient for agricultural purposes.

The researchers explain that chlorine is usually used to mitigate biofouling in membranes. However, chlorine rapidly degrades the performance of polymer membranes that are currently available. The team found that adding a few-layer of graphene makes this new membrane highly resistant to chlorine.

However, there are still many challenges to overcome with using this material, including:

  • Scaling up to industrial quantities as well as controlling defects, and
  • The need for complex transfer techniques to handle the two-dimensional material

Currently, the researchers are attempting to overcome scalability issues so as to provide an inexpensive and high-quality membrane at manufacturing scale.


#3. Graphene-based Sensors


Also in September 2017, The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee scientists $1.5 million to perfect a method of mass-producing graphene-based small water sensors using inkjet printing. The goal was to determine whether the process can be customized in order to scale up production and in a more economical way than traditional manufacturing methods.

Graphene-based Sensors
Graphene-based Sensors


The graphene-based sensors, developed at UWM, reportedly outperform current technologies in accuracy, sensitivity and sensing speed. Their performance and size make them useful for continuously monitoring drinking water for minuscule traces of contaminants like lead.

The grant will help researchers engineer the ink, which will contain the nanomaterials that give the sensors their capabilities. The ink is then layered on top of the sensors’ plastic substrate.


#4. Graphene-based Supercapacitors for Textile Printing


In August 2017, Researchers from The University of Manchester demonstrated flexible graphene-based supercapacitors printed directly on to textiles using a simple screen-printing technique.

Graphene-based Supercapacitors for Textile Printing
Graphene-based Supercapacitors for Textile Printing


The solid-state flexible supercapacitor device has been demonstrated by using conductive graphene-oxide ink to print onto cotton fabric. The printed electrodes reportedly exhibited excellent mechanical stability due to the strong interaction between the ink and textile substrate.

The team expects that the development of graphene-based flexible textile supercapacitors using a simple and scalable printing technique could be a significant step towards realizing multi-functional next-generation wearable e-textiles. They say:

"It will open up possibilities of making an environmentally friendly and cost-effective smart e-textile
that can store energy and monitor human activity and physiological condition at the same time"


#5. Graphene-coated Stirrups


Also in August 2017, Tata Steel's first graphene-based product was commercially released - the company announced the launch of ready-made graphene-coated stirrups, named Tiscon Superlinks+. Tata Steel's vice-president (steel & marketing) said:

"When four columns are built; the support link is normally supplied by a local mason,
which is made of steel. But, it usually rusts. We have changed that by coating it with graphene"


Superlink+ reportedly has enhanced corrosion resistance and better bonding strength than other stirrups in the market. Tata Steel has filed seven patent applications in this area of work.

TATA Tiscon Superlinks TMT Stirrups
TATA Tiscon Superlinks TMT Stirrups


A graphene development cell has been set up by the Company to identify applications and establish new businesses (production units, supply chain, and markets). Two advanced material research centers have been established.

  • One is at Chennai, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology there.
  • The other is at Bengaluru, with the Center for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences.

The Company commented that as long as graphene is used as a value-add in steel, Tata Steel could work on it.


Graphene Handbook

About Graphene-Info

Graphene-Info has been the leading international graphene publication for over 9 years, with a readership of tens of thousands of professionals a month. It provides a multitude of services to the graphene market based on its extensive and up-to-date knowledge hub and close ties with industry leaders.

Graphene-Info’s consultancy services include market outreach assistance, nanomaterials brokerage, support for graphene initiatives, business development and more.



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