The Graphene Flagship has launched a new Quality Assurance Programme for graphene and related materials (GRM). The Graphene Flagship’s Validation Service –
independent and impartial–
has been developed by its consortium partners, none of whom is involved in graphene production: National Physical Laboratory (NPL, UK), Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain), and Laboratoire National de Métrologie et d'Essais (LNE, France). The aim of the service is to provide confidence in graphene and related materials to enable a quicker transition of graphene products to market. The service is available for the Graphene Flagship’s partners free of charge and for clients beyond of the project at a market price.
Graphene and related materials (often known as two dimensional materials) have many and varied potential applications, from enhanced composite materials through to the next generation of datacom technology. The cornerstone of all of these applications sits with a confidence in the material itself. The expectation is high that the remarkable characteristics of graphene and related materials achieved in leading laboratories will be used to enhance materials and develop new devices. However, this needs to match the level of confidence in the real material produced in different forms. This is a difficult task. The ability of industrial consumers to thoroughly compare the different graphene and related material products on the market to find the one that will fulfil their needs is something that cannot currently be achieved with any level of reliability due to the many and varied characterisation regimes.
Currently there are many different processes used to assess a graphene or related material sample, making it complicated for developers to benchmark and improve their products, and for industry to choose the correct one with any confidence. The ability to provide this confidence is vitally important in enabling graphene and related materials to move from the laboratory and into industry.
Ensuring that graphene and related materials move towards a higher Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is the clear goal of the Graphene Flagship and one that can only be achieved when industry at all levels has the confidence to explore graphene in their products. Hence, the Graphene Flagship’s Graphene Validation service was created. This service was born out of a clear need, identified by the work of the Graphene Flagship’s Characterisation and Industrialisation group. At its core this validation service provides characterisation of graphene and related materials samples using authorised national measurement institutes and facilities that are world renowned for their excellence, independence, integrity and, importantly, impartiality.
To provide as wide a range of measurements as possible, this validation service is comprised of three laboratories (National Physical Laboratory, Universidad de Zaragoza and Laboratoire National de Métrologie et d'Essais) from three different European countries (UK, Spain and France, respectively). It offers a range of measurements from structural, mechanical, optical, thermal, electrical, magnetic, chemical and lifecycle of bulk composites; all in an independent and impartial manner.
“Validation is about providing documentary evidence with a defined standard operation procedure and internal processes. Through this we hope to provide an enhanced level of confidence within the graphene industry,” said Alexander Tzalenchuk, Fellow of National Physical Laboratory. “This level of materials characterisation can be prohibitively expensive for small companies and through our service we aim to offer this comprehensive testing at an affordable level. This service can be thought of as outsourced Quality Control which has the simple aim to help speed up getting materials, devices and systems to market.”
“The service itself was initially developed using graphene composite materials, where standards are in existence already,” said Tzalenchuk. “We are currently developing the service further to cover graphene and related materials powder, inks, suspension and coatings. As the TRL of the Graphene Flagship increases, the offering of the validation service will become more sophisticated. Now we are focusing on validating materials, but in the future this could be expanded to devices and systems.”
“The Graphene Flagship enabled work on standardisation by bringing people together in a collaborative working environment. From the start the Graphene Flagship saw the need for a characterisation work package which moved forward with the project into an industrialisation work package, and from that the idea for this validation service with formed,” said Raul Arenal, ARAID researcher in the Instituto de Nanociencia de Aragon at the Universidad de Zaragoza.
“The creation of the Validation Service is a great advance in the ambition of the Graphene Flagship to turn graphene science and technology into industrial success. In the Service, we do not perform just characterisations, we perform measurements in a solidly established framework of references. This is essential to give confidence to all stakeholders (researchers, industry, consumers). This role comes from our mission and our experience of accredited national measurement institutes or facilities. For the requests where standards are lacking, we are inspired by existing well-established and rigorous measurement protocols and these dedicated developments feed the standardisation process. Actually, we are also used to working with standardisation bodies. Finally, our measurements are expected to contribute to the assessment of both performance and risks of materials and products based on graphene and related materials,” said Félicien Schopfer, researcher at Laboratoire National de Métrologie et d'Essais.
As Oihana Txoperena, a research scientist at Graphenea commented: “The Validation Service provided by the Graphene Flagship is a very useful resource for accessing characterisation techniques which are not available in-house. The service is fast, experts are very professional and always ready to help and the reports are excellent.”
The Graphene Validation service is open for submission of samples to their bulk composite measurement service. As part of this service samples can be tested using qualified techniques with the best techniques chosen for each sample to produce the required range of validations out of a current list of 84.
“As well as looking at graphene, the service is already providing measurement on related materials such as tungsten disulphide, indium selenide and van der Waals heterostructures, with many other materials being considered,” said Graphene Flagship Science and Technology Officer Andrea C. Ferrari.
The Graphene Flagship provides the Validation Service to accelerate the industrialisation of Graphene and Related Materials (GRM). The service is provided by authorised national measurement institutes and facilities renowned for their excellence, independence, integrity and impartiality. Clients receive a detailed report, which is specific to a validated sample and provides documentary evidence demonstrating selected characteristics of that sample as requested by the client. The measurements adhere to available standards or established procedures. The validation service report can be used by clients to establish specifications, to find reliable suppliers, for benchmarking according to industry Figure of Merit (FOM), and to promote the end-product with GRM. The report must be referred to in full where it is used for promotional activity. No standard price list is available, the process is designed individually for each validated sample:
- Graphene Flagship’s Consortium partners are eligible to get the service free-of-charge while the EC’s grant budget is available.
- Graphene Flagship’s Associated Members and Partnering Projects are able to get the service on cost-based conditions.
- The service is accessible for non-Graphene Flagship community on a commercial basis.