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Sunday 23 September 2018

Graphene spin-out Paragraf aims for bright future with solar power boost

 

Graphene is a super-strong, lightweight material which promises longer-lasting smartphones and electric batteries, and lighter, stronger cars and planes
Graphene is a super-strong, lightweight material which promises longer-lasting smartphones and electric batteries, and lighter, stronger cars and planes

John Reynolds

Paragraf, the graphene spin-out from Cambridge University founded by a Cork scientist, has agreed a joint development programme with Verditek, a London-based clean technology company.

Paragraf, where Cork scientist Dr Ivor Guiney is CTO - along with Dr Simon Thomas and Prof Colin Humphreys - raised €3.3m last month.

The solar energy firm is backed by Austrian billionaire Hermann Hauser's Amadeus Capital Partners.

Graphene is a super-strong, lightweight material which promises longer-lasting smartphones and electric batteries, and lighter, stronger cars and planes.

About as valuable as gold, there is a global race to produce high volumes of it using cheap and abundant graphite.

A UCC engineering graduate Guiney said that the graphene layers the firm is producing are well suited to electronic device applications.

"We are currently driving towards graphene-based sensors, conductive surfaces for electronic devices and energy generation applications, amongst others," he said.

"By making more efficient and robust solar cells we can vastly reduce the overall cost of harnessing solar energy.

"We could go into manufacturing the cells ourselves, although our preferred route is licensing our technology. We're in a great position to improve the overall operation of solar cells substantially, but we'd prefer not to comment further than that yet," Guiney added.

Previous research by scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland has demonstrated how graphene could as much as double the efficiency of solar power, increasing the conversion rate of photons of light into energy from about 32pc to about 60pc.

AIM-listed Verditek, which is chaired by David Willetts, a former UK science minister, said in a statement: "Paragraf's proprietary manufacturing process of large-scale, high-quality graphene lends itself for development to integrate with our solar technology... [aiming] to realise a new generation of highly robust, ultra-lightweight panels that will potentially revolutionise the solar photovoltaic market.

"The company's new approach enables, for the first time, highly reproducible, large-scale production of these potentially game-changing materials."

Guiney added that improving battery technology is an ambition of the firm: "Batteries and their materials are definitely of interest to us as well, due to improved lifetimes and shorter charging times when they incorporate graphene."

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