07:54 Tuesday 30th June 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: Cambridge Nanosystems has just opened. They specialise in a very special kind of material called graphene. It’s brand new. It’s 200 times stronger than steel, and it could one day allow us to roll up our mobile phones. Our reporter Sue Marchant has been out to see graphene on the production line with the Managing Director Jerome Joaug, and she doesn’t waste any time finding out more.
JEROME JOAUG: Graphene is a single layer of carbon. Imagine how thick is your hair. Graphene is simply one million times thinner than your hair. It’s actually extremely strong, but at the same time flexible, an extremely good conductor of electricity. So here what we have is a plasma reactor. So it’s actually quite easy. We inject gas into the plasma. It would crack it, so methane would form into carbon. And the core of our technology is actually how to combine those carbon atoms into a single layer sheet of graphene. .. The thing to know is that graphene has very very low density. Having the powder is the first step, because there are very few applications which can directly use the powder as it is.
SUE MARCHANT: It’s getting a bit like a cocktail. Cracked out there, it’s mixed in here, are we adding anything else to it?
JEROME JOAUG: Every time we want to use it for something we have to process it in a slightly different way. For us, we actually provide a very wide range of services and advice on how to use it.
SUE MARCHANT: As I move over to the other side of the lab I can see “Danger – Laser on!”
CATHARINA PAUKNER: Yes. Safety comes first in everything you have to do. I’m Catharina Paukner. I’m a co-founder and Chief Scientist in Cambridge Nanosystems, developing our reactors and applications for our graphene. What I’m quite fascinated by is our development of sprayable heaters. These are similar to paints that you can buy and spray. In our case you could think of applying them to the floor. You create a layer that is less than a millimetre thick and then evenly heats the entire floor.
. This means you can get rid of the radiator that was blocking the piece of wall where you wanted your sofa. (LAUGHS)
SUE MARCHANT: Wow!
CATHARINA PAUKNER: I know!
SUE MARCHANT: Now you have a factory, this has created jobs for the people of Cambridge?
JEROME JOAUG: Yes. We are fifteen people. We are looking to increase this number up to twenty by the end of the year.
SUE MARCHANT: Now we are here in your showroom. It looks like chicken wire.
JEROME JOAUG: Actually this is how the structure of graphene looks like.
SUE MARCHANT: You’ve got music on the wall here.
JEROME JOAUG: It’s a graphene speaker. So you can have a very thin membrane of graphene, and it can produce music. So that’s a bit more for the future, but it allow people to really visualise what graphene can do.
SUE MARCHANT: Is it going to be better for our economy in the future?
JEROME JOAUG: The different aspects that we are working on ultimately would save energy. The potential of our technology on the very large scale is actually to take carbon from the air and store it into your everyday life, physically. So making something useful out of greenhouse gases.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Sue Marchant reporting there from Cambridge Nanosystems, a new graphene factory in the city. Interesting stuff.