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A world-first innovation in Perth’s southern suburbs has grabbed the attention of Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, who visited First Graphene (ASX:FGR) in Henderson recently to learn about the company’s new wonder material.
Graphene, which is a pure form of carbon, is 200 times stronger than steel and when added in small quantities to a wide range of products, can provide superior strength, fire retardancy, flexibility, thermal and electrical conductivity, and vastly improved wear life.
First Graphene has developed the first factory in the world that is producing pristine graphene at commercial quality and scale. As well as having its manufacturing facility and corporate headquarters in Perth, the company has a research and development division in Manchester, UK, which is aligned to the University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre.
Graphene was first isolated at Manchester University by two Russian scientists in 2004. The pair later won a Nobel prize for their work, however adoption of the material has been limited due to issues with consistent quality and quantity.
That was until First Graphene pioneered a proprietary manufacturing process that utilises extremely high-grade graphite. While graphite deposits in WA typically have grades of 6 to 7 per cent purity, the graphite used by First Graphene is up to 99.8 per cent purity.
The raw material is abundant and First Graphene, which is producing up to 100 tonnes of graphene per year, has several years of graphite stockpiled at any point in time and supply agreements for considerably more.
Graphene is produced by exfoliating carbon at just a few atoms thick from the graphite.
While much of the publicity around graphene is for its potential in high-tech applications such as electronics, aeronautics and space exploration, First Graphene also focuses on everyday industrial applications and is working with manufacturers of mineral processing screen panels, mining bucket liners, work boots, swimming pools and boats.
Mr McGowan said the fact that a WA company was value-adding in such an innovative way was a major boost for the State.
“We don’t only mine, but we can process and create jobs and great export incomes,” Mr McGowan said.
First Graphene Managing Director Craig McGuckin said the company had invested millions of dollars in research and development of specialised equipment to ensure the quality and consistency of its product was suitable for widespread use.
Marketed under the PureGRAPH® brand name, First Graphene’s product is being used by a range of local companies including swimming pool group Aqua Leisure Technologies, work boot manufacturer Steel Blue, and various producers of consumable products for mining. Other applications include strengthening oyster baskets used by aquaculture businesses in South Australia and Tasmania, fire retardant paints and as a coating for face masks to allow them to be washed and reused up to 100 times.