Graphene is perhaps the material in which international industry has placed the greatest hopes, given its enormous range of application possibilities and its numerous physical properties. This is pure carbon in the form of a very thin sheet, one atom thick and which gives graphene extraordinary features: it is flexible, 200 times stronger than steel and 5 times lighter.
Nonetheless, the production of graphene sheets presents certain difficulties, given the nanometric nature of the material. This is why Graphenea, the company located at CIC nanoGUNE in the Basque city of Donostia-San Sebastian, one of the few firms worldwide which is dedicated to the manufacture of this material, turned toIK4-TEKNIKERto work on the design of a more automated, standardisable, scalable and reliable production process.
Graphene sheets are normally manufactured using CVDtechnology, i.e. chemical vapour deposition. The graphene is deposited on a thin filmof copper when the vapour carrying the formerdissipates. One ofthe problems the company found was thatthe productionprocessesneededa lot ofmanual intervention. IK4-TEKNIKER technologicalcentre is designing, together with the company, a process to enable automating its graphene manufacturing process and to provide it with reliability.
With the goal ofresolving these difficulties, theDesign, Manufacturing and Assembly Unit at IK4-TEKNIKER, together with Graphenea, have designed a system for transferring the graphene oft he thin film of copper to a thin sheet of silicon, a key material in the electronics industry, employing a number of chemical baths that dissolvethe copper and enable depositingthe product ontothe silicon.
IK4-TEKNIKER has designed the basic instruments of the new Graphenea process, an ergonomic Teflon-manufactured system that enables handling the grapheme in a more simple way while under going the various chemical baths for the transfer of the silicon.
According to Rafa Enparantza, Director of the Design, Manufacturing and Assembly Unit at IK4-TEKNIKER, “this is a project which will have great repercussion on the internal processes of the company. In our centre we work a lot in large European projects, but in cases like this, when we work directly for one customer that finances the R+D of a product or process, the results are of immediate application and are highly satisfying”, he pointed out.
The project is at a highly advanced stage and Mr. Enparantza’s team members are working on the third prototype for the system. The initial versions were manufactured using 3D printers in work materials. But now the third prototype is being made inTeflon, with the aim of providing real conditions for the application trials.