Under the watchful eye of Dr Karl Coleman who won the 2011 Royal Society of Chemistry's 'Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year', Durham University is spinning out a company to develop the technology for mass production of our favourite two-dimensional material; graphene.
The company is betting on its so-called "bottom-up" chemical vapour deposition manufacturing process. It says the technique uses readily and cheaply available raw materials, is scalable and has the potential to be more cost effective and cleaner than alternative "top down" processes, such as the chemical exfoliation of graphite.
Graphene can be produced many ways – most simply by drawing with a pencil, and most famously with a bit of pencil lead and some sticky tape. While the notion of being able to make graphene at home is appealing, this is not an especially scalable method. CVD can be used to grow large sheets of the material, but the difficulty lies in ensuring that they are single layered. Chemical exfoliation, meanwhile, produces lots of single layers of graphene, but the resulting material has to go through a further purification step to remove graphene oxide and other potential contaminants.
The imaginatively named Durham Graphene Science has £1.2m worth of backing from venture capitalists at the IP Group, The North East Technology Fund, and a division of Northstar Ventures.