Friday, October 08, 2010

Graphite Goes Molecular

Last week two Russian-born physicists now living in England were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work in with the graphite material graphene. One atom thick, the carbon material is considered one of the most promising and versatile materials discoveries in recent times.

Graphene is stronger and stiffer than a diamond, yet can be stretched by as much as a quarter of its length. It has potential applications in computers, high-capacity batteries and other applications that could lead to major savings in energy requirements while increasing performance by several orders. In 2008, the duo created a one-nanometer graphene transistor, only one atom thick and ten atoms across. For perspective, this is smaller than the smallest possible silicon transistor produced under current technology and could have implications for the shrinking size and growing speed of computer processors.

Although none of the conventional graphite materials sources are yet producing graphene materials, there is a start-up based in the U.S., Vorbeck Materials (private), that has launched the first graphene-based product. Vorbeck offers Vor-Ink, a graphene-based conductive ink. They are targeting the printed electronics, smart-card and smart-packaging markets and believe their product has clear price and performance advantages over existing conductive inks. Vorbeck also has its eye on the battery market and claims to have produced materials for battery electrodes.

It is the computer electronic world that is looking on graphene with great interest. To create smaller computers requires some sort of scientific break-through and the one-molecule graphene material could be that break. Start-up Graphene Works, Inc. (private) based on Atlanta, Georgia has been successful in producing epitaxial graphene grown on silicon carbide. They believe the expitaxial form of graphene is the only form suitable for electronics applications. Graphene Works offers graphene films grown on two different silicon carbide substrates.

Graphite has long been a popular electrode material for everything from steel making to batteries. We currently have a Speculative Buy recommendation on China Carbon Graphite (CHGI: OTC/BB), which is among the leading producers of high purity and fine grain graphite material in china. We expect China Carbon and other leading graphite producers to eventually play a part in commercializing graphene. After all graphite materials are simply very many layers of graphene piled on top of each other and are already used in everything from pencils, to battery electrodes to manufacturing models to steel making.

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein. Crystal Equity has a Speculative Buy recommendation on CHGI.

Both Graphene Works, Inc. and Vorbeck Materials are included in our new
The Mothers of Invention Index among companies that are offering energy saving and efficiency creating products and services.

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