Graphene Frontiers Awarded $745k NSF Grant for ‘Roll-to-Roll’ Graphene Production

September 17, 2013

Graphene Frontiers, a Philadelphia-based advanced materials and nanotechnology company, has been awarded a $744,600 grant from the National Science Foundation. The funds will be used to develop roll-to-roll production of graphene.

Graphene, the “miracle material” at the heart of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics, is a single-atom-thick layer of carbon. It is transparent, conductive, impermeable and exceptionally strong. These properties will enable high sensitivity chemical detection devices and biosensors, desalination membranes and flexible touchscreens, but existing graphene production techniques can only make it in small patches or flakes. Graphene Frontiers’ approach can produce meter-long sheets of the material and does not need to take place in a vacuum, making it more cost-effective and enabling it to be more easily integrated with other industrial processes.

“The new project is to advance the approach to the point where it works like newspaper printing,” said A.T. Charlie Johnson, co-founder and chair of Graphene Frontiers’ scientific advisory board. “A roll of copper foil goes in to the growth system, and a roll of graphene on a suitable backing comes out. This sort of ‘roll-to-roll’ process would enable large-scale production of graphene with high quality at low cost.”

The NSF’s Small Business Innovation Research Phase II grant will be used to scale Graphene Frontiers’ production capacity.

Graphene Frontiers’ technology was developed by  Johnson, director of Penn’s Nano/Bio Interface Center and a professor in the department of physics and astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences, along with Zhengtang Luo, a former postdoctoral researcher in Johnson’s lab who is now a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

They founded the company in 2011 through the Center for Technology Transfer’s UPstart program. UPstart serves as a business incubator for technologies developed at the University and connected the researchers with Michael Patterson, then a member of the Wharton Executive MBA program, who is now the company’s CEO.

“Our platform technology will disrupt billion dollar markets, including flexible electronics, sensors and water desalination. In all of these areas, graphene will allow us to improve performance, lower cost and reduce environmental impact,” said Patterson.

About Graphene Frontiers:
Graphene Frontiers, founded in 2011, is a Philadelphia-based nanotechnology and advanced materials company dedicated to industrial scale production of graphene and graphene-based devices. Graphene Frontiers is located at the University City Science Center.

About the University City Science Center:
The University City Science Center is a dynamic hub for innovation, entrepreneurship and technology development in the Greater Philadelphia region. It provides business incubation, programming, lab and office facilities and support services for entrepreneurs, start-ups, growing and established companies.

About UPstart:
A division of the Center for Technology Transfer at the University of Pennsylvania, UPstart represents a virtual incubator for companies generated from research at the University of Pennsylvania offering an array of services to assist entrepreneurial faculty members in the company formation and development process. UPstart smoothes the path to future commercial success by working closely with faculty members and the entrepreneurial teams as they build value into the technology through new venture-creation in therapeutics, diagnostics, devices, materials, healthcare management and information technology.


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Author:NJ Tech Council

The New Jersey Tech Council helps companies grow and supports the tech, innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems in the state and region.

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