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Graphene pioneeer sees a frontier full of promise

Imagine a material that conducts electricity at 100 times the speed of silicon -- the standard material used in computer circuits. Now, THAT would be a fast machine, wouldn't it?

However, the substance -- known as graphene -- has uses beyond the computer world. Dayton-based Nanotek Instruments, whose researchers patented the material in 2002, says nano-graphene platelets (NGPs) show special promise in such applications as batteries, fuel cells, supercapacitors, composites -- even as a shield against lightning strikes.

Bor Jang, co-founder of Nanotek Instruments and its production subsidiary Angstron Materials, says Angstron is the largest producer of NGPs in the world. He says the future looks bright: Experts say graphene has the potential to replace nano carbon tubes in many applications because it has the highest intrinsic strength and highest thermal conductivity of any known material. Depending on how material using NGPs is made, it can serve as a conductor or an insulator -- and It can also be mass-produced cost-effectively when compared to carbon nano-tubes.

While Angstron continues to mass-produce NGPs for a variety of customers, including composite compounders (those who combine engineered resins to meet specific applications) and specialty fabric or fiber producers, Jang sees some of the highest potential as a material used in advanced and alternative energy. Nanotek received a $350,000 commercialization grant last year from the Ohio Third Frontier to develop NGP electrodes for lithium ion batteries and other energy storage applications. If successful, the project will help get electric vehicle manufacturers over an important technical hurdle -- giving an electric vehicle the burst of power it needs for rapid acceleration.

Nanotek moved to the Dayton area five years ago from North Dakota with two employees. Today, the company has 16.

Source: Bor Jang, Nanotek
Writer: Gene Monteith

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