Article Date: August 20, 2014
Grafoid's expanded Innovation Park space will already house 40 jobs while the addition of another 120 is expected over the course of the next 12 to 18 months.
"(Grafoid's) growth plans are imminent -- we are moving ahead on many different fronts," said Gary Economo, the company's CEO.
The site officially opened Wednesday morning and the local media was invited for a tour of the 225,000-square-foot site. Economo said his company will utilize the established laboratories and facilities in order to develop practical applications for MesoGraf, the patented material they produce. MesoGraf is a type of graphene, a remarkably light new substance that has been lauded as the strongest material ever gauged, alongside a slew of other valuable properties. The material can be mixed with other metals, polymers or coatings to enhance all different types of commodity.
Grafoid's unique production process sets it apart from competitors in an industry that has a reach exceeding $100 billion. MesoGraf is produced through an environmentally friendly chemical reaction that liberates flakes of graphite from the ore. The flakes are then broken down into layers that expand in a liquid solution. After a while, these layers become isolated -- at this point the material becomes known as MesoGraf.
"Typically all other processes to make graphene are very expensive. This is very low cost, expandable and you can do it in batches of kilos versus everybody else using chemical vapour deposition techniques that makes it in milligrams," Economo said.
The MesoGraf goal is to become the global platform leader in mine-to-market products. In order to do this, it has set its focus on expanding and researching the functional applications of MesoGraf, which could have an impact on countless markets.
"Research comes into the facility and this is where we commercialize it -- we turn it into real products," Economo said. "We see it as a global catalyst for changing the way we live, work, play and communicate."
The tour of the technology centre commenced in a hallway where MesoGraf is produced. These labs were under lock and key and the media were denied a glimpse into the highly confidential graphene production methods. We them moved into the industrial section of the complex, which consists of three large warehouses, each having a unique purpose.
The first was the foundry, where graphene materials are mixed with other elements and cast through various methods. These alloys and casting procedures can transform the properties of the substance. It is here that Grafoid can fine tune the material to meet a client's specific requirements.
The second room includes a metal roller and thermal equipment that can distort, flatten and alter the castings. This allows the company to work with the material more efficiently, transforming the cast into an amenable product ready to be utilized. The final room that was visited was a largely empty warehouse that includes a small metal analysis lab. The lab's main piece of equipment is a metal spectrometer, used to identify the specific makeup of alloys. Scrutinizing the metal mixtures crafted in the facility is crucial to research and development of graphene alloys where the properties must be recorded.
The facility at Queen's Innovation Park is Grafoid's first fully operation production facility in North America, adding to its existing location in Singapore. Gordon Chu, chief technology officer at Grafoid, said the company had set a goal for itself to establish another production site outside of Singapore in order to diversify and reduce the company's vulnerability. "Within Grafoid, we knew that a single site of production in Singapore alone was much too limiting and would become a high risk issue for both ourselves and any application partners we were signing on. We gave a promise that by 2015 we would have an additional site of production at another country. Today we celebrate," Chu said.