The mission and milestones of Graphenea, a leading global graphene producer
Graphenea has been a partner of the Graphene Flagship since the start. Together, we reflect on a decade of innovation and collaboration – as well as a new foundry
From growing graphene to fabricating graphene devices, Graphenea is a global leader in the graphene production and innovation fields. The company, which was founded in Spain and has since expanded into the United States, supports clients in more than 60 countries worldwide by producing new forms of graphene from graphene field effect transistor chips to graphene oxides, and by creating unique graphene devices. It even recently launched a new foundry – this company keeps busy!
Graphenea is also noteworthy for having been a Graphene Flagship partner since the Flagship’s founding. This means that in 2023, we are marking 10 years of collaboration between our two organisations.
With this in mind, we asked our friends at Graphenea to reflect on the past decade and to share with us some insights into their work, their aims, and their highlights.
Tell us about your mission. What prompted the creation of Graphenea?
Graphenea was founded to accelerate graphene electronics technology adoption. Our mission is to accelerate the adoption of CVD graphene electronics technology into real life applications such as biosensors, photonics, optoelectronics and magnetic sensors, among others. Our business model is to be a “pure-play” Foundry.
A “pure-play” foundry?
As in, a foundry that focuses exclusively on a particular product or service. Graphenea’s foundry is dedicated to producing graphene and developing it into graphene electronics technology, and we are dedicated more to deepening our expertise and abilities in these areas than to branching out in a way that might risk us spreading ourselves thin.
That makes sense. On the topic of graphene electronics, can you tell us a little more about how your manufacturing process works?
Graphenea manufactures graphene chips according to customers’ designs and specifications. We guarantee the final quality and performance by integrating synthesis, transfer, device fabrication, testing, dicing and packaging. This business model allows us to have lower costs, faster development times and lower entry barriers to the companies exploring graphene chips for their electronic components.
Out of curiosity, what is the scale of your work at present? Do you have any numbers you are particularly excited about?
We do! During 2022 alone, we fabricated more than 700,000 single graphene devices. This is an exciting milestone for us, and a sign that we are moving in a good direction and delivering goods and services that our clients want and need.
That’s impressive! Was this result due in part to you having a new foundry? Can you tell us more about that?
Certainly. What would you like to know?
Hmmm…. How about: what makes this new foundry different? Is there something especially interesting or unusual about it, and about the way it operates?
Interesting question. In truth, there are other companies and R&D centres that grow, transfer, or process CVD graphene to some extent.
What makes us different, however, is that our foundry follows a relatively unique vertical integration: we grow the graphene, and we transfer it and process it under one roof, fulfilling the targeted customer specs in terms of characteristics and yield. This enables constant monitoring of the quality of the samples, fast turnaround times, and rapid process development. The latter is especially important given the versatile nature of graphene, as different applications such as biosensors and photodetectors might need different properties and characteristics in their graphene devices.
What’s more, something that makes Graphenea unusually versatile is the way our technical information and feedback is shared horizontally across our growth, transfer, and device processing teams, which enables us to adapt quickly to the requirements and specifications put forward by our customers. Indeed, it is at this later device processing stage, once graphene films are processed into devices, that one can obtain the most information about the graphene – and at Graphenea, this information is fed back to the growth and transfer teams for continuous process optimisation. This operations model is proving highly effective.
Regarding specific applications and devices, what applications does the foundry currently produce and what applications are anticipated?
Chips are central to our work: our portfolio of customers has a large percentage of groups and companies carrying out biosensing using our chips as their platform. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for faster, more accurate, and IoT-plugged devices, not only for better response in the event of future pandemics but also for better diagnostics in general.
We are also seeing strong synergies with Photonics Integrated Circuits (PICs), an area in which Spain has a significant technological capacity. We are currently working to develop optical modulators that would enable optical links with a much lower energy consumption, which could potentially reduce the huge energy footprint of the power-hungry data centres that are the backbone of our current society.
As for areas in which we anticipate further applications, we are currently seeing certain players taking advantage of graphene to implement novel detectors which surpass in performance current state-of-the-art devices in the photonics, optoelectronics, and hybrid photodetectors sectors.
Interesting – we’ve also noticed strong interest in graphene and graphene-based devices from those sectors.
Yes, that lines up with what we have observed as well. Graphene has a lot of potential to improve upon current technologies in those areas.
It’s striking to think we’ve been collaborating for so long. Ten years! Time really does fly.
Definitely! Graphenea was only founded in 2010, and we have already attained so many milestones – and this is thanks in no small part to the support of the Graphene Flagship. You’ve been quite crucial in helping us achieve our goals.
That’s wonderful to hear. And Graphenea – can we ask you one more question?
What are some of your highlights from over the past decade?
There have been plenty of great moments and accomplishments, but we’ll try to keep this succinct!
A major highlight is that we started manufacturing 1x1 cm2 graphene sheets some years ago, and we are now able to grow and transfer 200mm graphene wafers and manufacture thousands of devices, on 150mm wafers, with multiple device architectures and applications.
More broadly, it has been great to see (and contribute to, as much as has been possible) the awareness that society has acquired about the pivotal role of semiconductors in the 21st century. This awareness has been mirrored in the EU Chips Act and the target of having 20 percent of global semiconductor manufacturing take place in Europe. We are very enthusiastic about this Act and look forward to continuing to produce graphene-based devices, and thereby also make an important contribution to this EU manufacturing objective.
In short: we remain committed to and enthusiastic about enabling the development of pioneering new technologies based on the amazing material that is graphene!
A brilliant goal! Thanks, Graphenea – and we wish you all the best for the many years ahead.
Thank you. Wishing you super strength, transparency, flexibility, high levels of conductivity, and many other wonderful qualities.
Learn more about the work of Graphenea here.