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New Graphene Synthesized for Industrial Uses

Pat Waurzyniak
By Patrick Waurzyniak Contributing Editor, SME Media
Metalysis’ single monolayer graphene platelet.

Materials researcher Metalysis Ltd. (South Yorkshire, UK) recently announced that it has developed a new synthesized graphene material that holds potential for future industrial production. Metalysis, which is focused on commercializing its proprietary electrochemical metal-powder manufacturing technology, said its R&D successfully produced graphene using the company’s own process.

Single-layer (monolayer) sheets of graphene have been synthesized at Metalysis’ industrial processing facilities in the Dearne Valley, as well as bilayer and low multi-layer amalgamations, the company said. A collective of scientists continues to focus on differentiating and separating the single atom width, highly lucrative sheets. The research team is comprised of scientists from the University of Manchester, the University of Sheffield, the University of Kent and Camborne School of Mines. Metalysis filed for its graphene breakthrough in February 2016.

“We are pleased to announce another exciting achievement on behalf of our technical team. Our proven technology can synthesize graphene monolayers with no operational or production cost impacts on our core metal powder business,” Metalysis CEO Dion Vaughan said in a statement.

“Producing graphene could enable Metalysis to add new, lucrative markets to those it is already serving; markets in which our arrival could be highly disruptive when global product demand is considered against the sheer amount of graphene we could produce in conjunction with our Gen 4, and later Gen 5 modular expansions,” Vaughan said. “Gen 5, by way of illustration, envisages scaling up production capability for highly profitable niche multi-metal powders to thousands of tonnes per annum.”

Metalysis aimed to further optimize its process graphene production, Vaughan said, and explore opportunities for commercial collaboration within the coming calendar year.

Among its attributes, graphene is super strong, lightweight and highly conductive, exhibiting metallic-like properties in 2D form. Graphene is expected to revolutionize a host of future applications across a wide range of sectors including light materials (aerospace and automotive), semiconductors, energy electrodes, nanotechnology and printable inks.

While graphene is traditionally known to incur high costs of production, Metalysis can produce the largely industrially inaccessible material at no additional production cost to its conventional operations, according to the company, and it is now focused on further process optimization.

Graphene production at Metalysis represents a valuable opportunity to pursue additive revenue to the core titanium and tantalum metal powder production business, the company said, which primarily serves the 3D printing industry. Metalysis has global rights to a disruptive solid-state metal powder manufacturing technology, originally based on the Fray-Farthing-Chen Process invented at the University of Cambridge, UK, a low-cost and environmentally friendly process over traditional metal production methods.

Metalysis benefits from a highly supportive shareholder base, which includes Iluka Resources, Woodford Funds and BHP Billiton. This has enabled the company to raise substantial funds, including £22m in CY2016, to increase productivity and carry out its Generation 4 expansion. The modular Gen 4 process has the potential to be scaled up to provide hundreds of tonnes a year of valuable specialty metal-alloy powders, the company said.

Lasers to Help Take Large Hadron Collider to the Next Level

New pioneering laser technology could soon boost the performance of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN (Geneva, Switzerland) to new levels of efficiency, helping unlock some of science’s greatest mysteries going back to the Big Bang, researchers say.

The technology for the surface modification of metals known as LESS (Laser Engineered Surface Structures) for this specific application is the result of a collaboration between the University of Dundee (Dundee, Scotland) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC; Swindon, UK). Dundee and STFC have now entered into partnership with CERN to employ the new technology, which is aimed at clearing the electron cloud that develops in the LHC and limits the range of experiments that it can handle.

Steel before (left) and (after) being reengineered using lasers. A new collaboration between the University of Dundee (Dundee, Scotland) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council is using laser technology in a partnership at CERN using the research facility’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

“Large particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider suffer from a fundamental limitation known as the electron cloud,” said Professor Amin Abdolvand, chair of Functional Materials & Photonics, University of Dundee. “This cloud of negative particles under certain conditions may degrade the performance of the primary proton beams that circulate in the accelerator, which is central to its core experiments.

“Current efforts to limit these effects involve applying composite metal or amorphous carbon coatings to the inner surfaces of the LHC vacuum chambers,” Abdolvand said. “These are expensive and time-consuming processes that are implemented under vacuum.”

In the frame of the High Luminosity LHC project, CERN is preparing to upgrade the collider from 2019 and a new solution is needed to reduce the electron cloud problem to much lower levels than are expected as the upgraded collider will use proton beams of double the intensity of the current ones.

The LESS method has shown potential to reduce the electron cloud to unprecedentedly low levels. It involves using lasers to manipulate the surface of metals, and relies on understanding how different metal surfaces react when they are subjected to varying levels of laser fluence or intensity.

Currently, tests have shown that it is possible to reformulate the surface of the metals in the LHC vacuum chambers to a design that under a microscope resembles the type of sound padding seen in music studios, the researchers said. The surface can trap electrons, keeping the chambers clear of the cloud. Initial tests at the Super Proton Synchrotron, the LHC injector, have shown the LESS method is very effective at controlling the electron yield, as electron clouds have been fully eradicated.

“The LESS method should yield many successful applications in the future,” Deputy Head of STFC ASTeC (Accelerator Science and Technology Centre) Peter McIntosh said. “This is just one opportunity that will have a dramatically positive impact for the LHC and its High Luminosity configuration.

“Through close working interaction between ASTeC vacuum scientists and Dundee University laser specialists, a real breakthrough in suppression of secondary emission yield performance has been accomplished, which could have widespread implications for high electro-magnetic field environments, where breakdown limitations are of particular concern, such as for sensor systems and applications in satellite and aerospace technologies. We expect it will prove to be an innovative solution for CERN.”

Professor Lucio Rossi, project leader of the High Luminosity LHC, said, “If successful, this method will allow us to remove fundamental limitations of the LHC and reach the parameters which are needed for the high luminosity upgrade in an easier and less expensive way. This will boost the experimental program by increasing the number of collisions in the LHC by a factor over the present machine configuration.”

Michael Benedikt, head of the Future Circular Collider study at CERN, said “The LESS solution could be easily integrated in the design of future high-intensity proton accelerators; the method is scalable from small samples to kilometer-long beam lines.”

Rice Wins $2M Grant for Exascale Computing

Rice University (Houston) computer scientist and engineer John Mellor-Crummey has won a Department of Energy (DOE) grant to fund research and development of performance measurement and analysis tools for forthcoming exascale supercomputers.

Exascale computers are needed to solve complex problems related to the DOE’s research priorities, which include enhancing renewable energy resources, developing advanced materials and designing experimental facilities. Mellor-Crummey said his group’s work as part of the exascale computing initiative is focused on extending Rice University’s HPCToolkit software, which is used to analyze application performance around the world on systems ranging from desktops to supercomputers.

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