Despite the circumstances, this year for Graphenea was marked by leaps in business advancement, awards, and new projects started.
Our company marked its 10th anniversary, having advanced from small Spanish startup to a global leader in graphene manufacturing. It was also a year in which Graphenea was named “Best Graphene Firm” by an international committee of 40 jury members of the international Committee of the conference Graphchina 2020. The award highlights a graphene producer which provides graphene materials of the best quality and industrial scale production at reasonable pricing. Giving back to the community, Graphenea collaborated with CIC nanoGUNE and the startup accelerator BerriUp to launch the First Global Graphene Call for entrepreneurs, which provided successful grantees with seed funding, mentoring, and co-working space. It was also the third year in a row that Graphenea consumed only 100% renewable energy in our cleanroom, labs and offices.
Although the pandemic caught everyone off-guard, we were quick to reorganize our operations and continued supplying our customers without interruption. In a push back, Graphenea started producing a disinfectant alcohol-based hydrogel, donating the hand sanitizer for public use. We also offered free graphene to researchers that are working on Covid-19 treatment and diagnosis.
In 2020, Graphenea completed its participation in the European project GRAMOFON, during which we developed an innovative CO2 capture process based on novel nanomaterials and microwave energy. Materials such as modified-graphene aerogels and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have shown very good CO2 capture capacities and greater selectivity than traditional adsorbents. We also completed project G4SEMI, which was aimed at integrating graphene into CMOS semiconductor workflows. The three key technical challenges that we addressed were increasing the size of the graphene wafers on offer, scaling up graphene transfer, while further improving the quality by developing novel post-fabrication cleaning processes. These advancements helped raise the technology readiness level of graphene films, improving acceptability for integration into today’s CMOS processes.
It was also the year in which our team launched new projects. European project “Real time nano CHAracterization reLatEd techNoloGiES” (CHALLENGES) aims to adapt nanoscale metrology for the manufacturing industry, scaling up high resolution imaging for CMOS electronics, silicon photovoltaics, and 2D materials. The project, having kicked off with an online meeting on April 23rd, started April 1st and will last for three years under the “Research and innovation actions” (RIA) programme. We also signed a collaboration agreement with construction giant Lantania to jointly study the use of graphene in concrete. In the final stage of the project, Lantania will use graphene oxide additives to enhance the mechanical and durability properties of concrete in one of its construction projects. We also continue to develop cost-effective geothermal drilling technologies and miniaturized optical gas sensors through EU projects Geo-drill and Ulisses.
The Graphene Foundry service will be upgraded in January 2021 for a qualitative leap for Graphenea’s customers. The company will add new functionality to the service, such as a mask-sharing scheme, 40x40 mm2 footprints, regular graphene patterning, metallisation and polymeric encapsulation runs, and in-house vertical process integration, enabling custom device production at low volumes for rapid prototyping. This year we already upgraded our “GFET for sensing” product lineup with four-contact geometry in the S11 and S12 sensing chips and introduced a custom graphene oxide (GO) dispersion service, allowing customers to select their own solvent and concentration for GO.
Scientific research continued unabated, as evidenced by a large volume of high-quality publications that used our graphene or involved researchers from Graphenea. In work that is relevant for widescale applications, especially wearable patch-like sensors, researchers have shown that graphene is not irritant to the skin. Among many applications in biology, it was shown that graphene oxide, a readily obtainable form of graphene in mass production, can have applications in biosensing. Scientists are modifying their existing GO sensors to test for COVID-19 antibodies, using a platform that was shown to detect other diseases from a single drop of blood or saliva within just 15 minutes. Graphene sensors, based on field effect transistors (GFETs) can be used to selectively detect ions in a liquid solution, which has applications in genome sequencing, medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring, and industrial process control. The GFET is a highly versatile and useful platform, having also been showed to possess ultra-low electronic noise properties and high on-off switching ratio, both extremely useful properties for digital logic circuits and sensing. These devices have also been used to demonstrate long-range spin communication for future spin computers.
The technology of making and utilizing graphene keeps advancing as the material matures. Now scientists have shown that laser can be used to transfer small patches of graphene to precise locations on custom target substrates while preserving material quality. Graphene suspended over a TEM grid has also been used as a tool to study material quality and integration with technologically relevant indium oxide.
Finally, in a vision of futuristic developments in computing, graphene memristive synapses have enabled high accuracy neuromorphic computing. With record-breaking 16 conductance states in a single device, paired with a non-volatile nature of the synapse, the graphene-based solution hints at energy efficient hardware for neuromorphic computing and for integration of artificial neural networks (ANNs) with emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things.
Graphenea wishes everyone a happy holiday season and a successful 2021!