Here’s one for the technology punters. First Graphite has received approval from the WA Department of Environment Regulation for the construction of a graphene production facility at the Australian Marine Complex at Henderson near Perth. This will be operational in the fourth quarter of this year. First Graphite said it will be the first ASX-listed company to have a commercial graphene production capability.
The facility will cost less than $1 million and will be funded from existing cash. Initial capacity will be 20 to 25 tonnes per annum of saleable graphene. If suitable sales contracts are negotiated, multiple shifts could increase production to about 90 tonnes per annum, a globally significant level, said the company.
Managing director Craig McGuckin said “The receipt of the Works Approval is the final regulatory step required before the company can move to cement itself as a globally significant graphene producer. We are very pleased to have come this far in such a relatively short time, overtaking all of our competitors in the process.”
First Graphite produces high quality graphene from high grade Sri Lankan vein graphite. Graphene is ultra thin and seen as an emerging super material with benefits in a range of industrial applications. It is the lightest and strongest material compared with its ability to conduct heat and electricity, so it can be integrated with other materials and applications to improve performance and efficiency.
One area of research is energy storage. First Graphite said scientists are working to enhance the capabilities of lithium ion batteries by incorporating graphene as an anode. This could offer much higher storage capacities with better longevity and faster charging rate. Graphene is also being developed for use in the manufacture of supercapacitors that are able to be charged very quickly yet still store a large amount of electricity.
First Graphite has become a partner with the Australian Research Council Research Hub for Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation. The agreement with the ARC Graphene Research HUB will focus on the development of fire retardants, conductive graphene coatings and graphene polymer composites.
First Graphite already has a licence agreement with the University of Adelaide to exploit the development of a graphene-based fire retardant. It said test work is proving that this product is superior to existing fire retardants in its self extinguishing ability, suppression of toxic and flammable volatiles, oxygen barrier effect, and retention of mechanical strength of structure.
The technology could have environmental benefits. First Graphite said current fire retardants rely on toxic halogen organic-based fire retardants which create soil and water pollution. Many are carcinogenic and can cause mutations, and have been banned in some countries. Industry is actively looking for better alternatives, it said.
The development of two product lines are the focus of the First Graphite and University of Adelaide work with ARC Graphene Research Hub – graphene paints for fire resistive coatings for wall papers, fibres, wood fences and building cladding; and fire resistive engineered wood such as particle-board, chip board and gyprock. (ASX: FGR)