Graphene: The new panacea?
Monday, 19 September 2016 | Posted by: Sonja Schulte, European Coatings Journal
I recently read an article in the journal "Nachrichten aus der Chemie” entitled "What became of the graphene hype?” A provocative title, to be sure, but there’s probably an element of truth in it. In the early 2000s, the scientific world hailed this newly discovered two-dimensional carbon modification as the new panacea. The enthusiasm has waned somewhat in many quarters since then, but hasn’t quite disappeared altogether – it keeps resurfacing in the coatings industry. Question is: can it really deliver on its promise?
Discovery and properties of graphene
In 2004, a group led by André Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester produced monoatomic graphene layers. They did this by using a piece of adhesive tape to peel a single atomic layer off a piece of graphite and transfer it to a substrate. This work earned Geim and Novoselov the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics. The unique properties of the thinnest material in the world could be used, it was believed, in manifold ways: in tennis racquets, solar cells and, at some time in the future, in medical sensors too. That said, only a few products made with graphene have appeared on the market.
Graphene in coatings systems
Graphene has a series of exceptional properties that might open the door to many interesting types of coatings systems. At least, that's what the operators of this site claim: http://www.graphene-info.com/graphene-coating. They mention high-performance adhesives as well as anti-bacterial coatings, solar paints (capable of absorbing solar energy), insulating paints for houses, anti-rust coatings, anti-fog paints, and UV ray blockers, etc, etc. In fact, all those systems which the coatings industry has been working on for ages, but so few of which have made it to market.
The Chinese company "The Sixth Element Material” has developed a graphene-zinc anti-corrosion primer and is selling it at a price similar to that of a zinc-rich primer (http://www.graphene-info.com/sixth-element-presents-its-graphene-zinc-anti-corrosion-primer) . The English company "Applied Graphene Material” is working with Sherwin Williams on developing graphene-based anti-corrosion paints (http://www.graphene-info.com/applied-graphene-materials-goes-graphene-enhanced-anti-corrosion-paint-development). A researcher from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology succeeded in raising some $500,000 from the NSF for a research project on this topic area. He published an article on it in "Nature”, the renowned science magazine http://www.nature.com/articles/srep13858in 2015. I could go on and on. Basically: there’s a lot of research being conducted on graphene in the field of anti-corrosion.
So far, though, very little has been published on the use of graphene in organic coatings. This begs the question as to whether graphene has any shear stability that would enable it to be incorporated into a conventional coating system.
I believe the coatings industry should keep an eye on graphene research. If it proved possible to mass-produce a graphene paint that possesses long-term anti-corrosion properties, conventional anti-corrosion coatings might well find themselves squeezed out of the market. Let me know what you think.