Pavements and batteries: the future is green thanks to graphene

Il Giorno – Economia

Directa Plus is one of the main manufacturers of a fundamental material for the ecological transaction.

It is one of the thinnest materials in the world and is made of only a single layer of carbon atoms. It has the potential to be a fundamental item for the ecological transaction. Only 20 years has passed since 2004, when the graphene was isolated for the first time by two Russian scientists from the University of Manchester. Today it is considered to be one of the most versatile materials and can be applied in a variety of products, such as asphalts, fabrics, masks, oil absorption. Graphene could also make the difference in the production of electrical batteries in the near future.

In Italy one of the leading production companies of graphene-based products is Directa Plus, a firm based in Lomazzo, near Como. “Our production process is unique and we have obtained 46 certifications for its non-toxicity” – said Giulio Cesareo, founder and CEO of the company – “We don’t use chemicals in the production of graphene nanoplatelets. We only work with physical processes.” Directa Plus also obtained 72 granted patents for its graphene-based products, to which other 28 pending patents must be added. “This material has disruptive and unique characteristics. We started form some textile technologies. Today, however, the environmental remediations constitute the higher revenue shares”.

One of the most requested products is Grafysorber, a technology for oil recovery for oil spills at sea and for contrasting oil spills in production processes. In the last few weeks Directa Plus signed an agreement with Reda Energy, a company that is going to use the graphene-based product to clean up the North Sea. “Our method is at least 5 times more efficient than the other hydrocarbons absorption technologies. Grafysorber is sustainable, reusable and has many more advantages, both economic and environmental.” Directa Plus’ technology obtained in April the official authorization issued by the EPA, i.e. the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Another important field of application is in the asphalt industry. “We created an additive that can triple the duration of asphalts and reduces the holes formation. Graphene can preserve the superficial layer of asphalt and the material doesn’t make it soft”. The graphene-based technology was largely tested in the U.K., where it could find a new use in airport runaways, which are being closed due to asphalt failures.

Nowadays the global graphene market features circa 100 million dollars per year. The actual turning point could be in the energy field. In fact, some studies to substitute graphene and sulphur in batteries are being carried on. “We are working with an American firm and in 2 or 3 year this products could be launched on the market. The advantages are multiple: they cost less, they are flame retardant and have a higher electrical density”. By some estimates, the graphene global market could also grow by 15 times more by 2030.