Technological breakthrough with marvel material
November, 24th, 2017. The physicists of W&L Coating Systems, just recently having become part of the SCHNEIDER group, have set a milestone in vacuum thin film coating. The SCHNEIDER subsidiary developed a machine for the industrial production of atomically thin layers of graphite (called graphene). "Graphene has fantastic material properties and can be used in a variety of applications. We are very proud of our colleagues' achievement," said Gunter Schneider, founder & President of the SCHNEIDER group.
The first graphene was produced on a laboratory scale by the California Institute of Technology. Known for their experience in the field, W&L has been approached by the Norwegian government and received the exclusive order to find a way for producing graphene on an industrial scale. The "two-dimensional" material graphene is several hundred times more tear-resistant than steel at only one-fifth of the weight. "If it were possible to produce a one-square-meter hammock made of graphite, it could carry a cat of four pounds, but would weigh less than a cat's whiskers (0.7 milligrams)", Dr. Michael Liehr, Managing Director of W & L Coating Systems GmbH proudly explains. Graphene is bendable, optically highly transparent and nearly twice as conductive as copper. In 2010, the physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov received the Nobel Prize for the discovery of this unique material.
Called the "marvel material of the 21st century" by the European Commission, graphene is said to have a major impact on the energy supply, transport and healthcare sectors (biosensors and cancer therapy) in the future. The new material may be used in several fields of application such as the production of extremely light batteries with high power density for electromobility, intelligent windows with adjustable solar radiation, highly-efficient solar cells, ultra-thin touch screens or much lighter, environmentally friendly airplanes.
Currently, only a very small amount of graphene is available on the market and highly-priced. Now producing industrial scale graphene, W&L provides the solution for the long-term commercial success of graphene-based innovations. The prototype is based on the principle of plasma chemical vapour deposition in a vacuum and synthesizes the graphene on metallic surfaces consisting of carbon-containing gases. Currently, the machine with a height of three meters and a weight of eight tons is in the testing phase. The first results of the graphene production are excellent.
W&L Coating Systems joined the SCHNEIDER group on January 1st, 2017. The startup, which was founded in 2013 in Reichelsheim (Wetterau, Germany), is specialized in the development of high-end products and processes for the vacuum coating industry.