Working with Graphene and Joining The Graphene Council

At Hubron, we’ve established ourselves as one of the world’s leading providers of black masterbatch in over 85 years of operation.

We’re always looking at ways to move forward, and in recent years we’ve been working closely with graphene producers to develop further uses for the material, i.e. for improved black masterbatches and conductive compounds.

Joining The Graphene Council

Hubron recently became a corporate member of The Graphene Council, which is the world’s largest community for graphene researchers, developers, producers, academics and scientists.

And to commemorate this occasion, our Technical Manager Robert Laurent had a chat with The Graphene Council’s Dexter Johnson, to discuss how we started working with graphene and what we’re aiming to achieve with the material in the future.

Let’s take a look at what was discussed…

How Hubron first got involved with graphene

With regard to Hubron starting to look into using graphene in our formulations, Robert told Dexter that our first experiments with the material began back in 2014.

Initially focusing on nanotubes that evolved into graphenes, we continued to work closely with our suppliers, with Robert adding:

“Commercially it is still relatively new, but 2020 saw the first real volume go through our plant.

“These volumes are still small compared to our typical run sizes, however our pipeline of opportunities is gathering pace.”

How working with graphene has been so far

Working with new materials can present different issues and challenges, and each different type of graphene can perform in significantly different ways.

While the first experiments we carried out with graphene were more about testing compatibility with the host resin, this has progressed into the optimisation of dispersion, loading, performance and scaling up.

“It is essential to identify the right material for the polymer and application,” said Robert, “and learning how to safely handle, feed, process and disperse these materials has also been key.”

How graphene compounds are processed at Hubron

“We are a masterbatch/compounder of graphene materials,” noted Robert. “and we have several technologies available to us for the processing of 2D materials.”

Ease of handling and dosing into their process are just two of the benefits our customers will see from our masterbatches and compounds.

Robert went on to say: “A fully-dispersed, compatible material in a concentrate form will aid the full exploitation of property enhancements.”

The appeal of graphene-enabled products in both niche and broader markets

When it comes to niche vs broad appeal of graphene-based products, Robert stated that “The broad spectrum of property enhancement possibly lends itself to a more comprehensive approach.”

At Hubron, our ultimate goal is to always add value to our customers, and Robert also told The Graphene Council that he thinks there’ll be a place for more ‘off the shelf’ composites and bespoke, customer-focused solutions.

“Hubron’s focus is on being a solutions provider,” he continued, “and it is the belief that 2D materials will be key in the thermoplastic arena for providing solutions to challenges such as light-weighting and sustainability.”

Unique selling points of our graphene composites

We want our customers to take advantage of the potential of these materials by providing them with cost-effective, functional, and fully-dispersed masterbatch and compounds.

“We can offer bespoke solutions, and we will work with our clients to achieve their objectives,” said Robert, “through the learnings of our work and the investments we have made and will continue to make.”

Noting that there’s a current lack of awareness among end-users, Robert went on to say that here at Hubron, we can help to bridge the knowledge gap, and guide our customers in terms of how to use these materials and help them to realise the potential benefits.

Ongoing strategy for commercialising graphene composites

Our customers’ needs are always our top priority at Hubron, and through technical advancements in collaboration with our customers, we’ll be able to offer them sustained value.

“Our strategy is to maintain a sharp focus on developing and delivering niche and customised products that are differentiated, solve major customer problems, and offer compelling value propositions,” concluded Robert.