Applied Graphene Materials plc
27 Jan 2023



This case study is part of a set reflecting the impact of ISIS science reported as part of the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).​​

Graphene structure


Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay
REF Case Study: Applied Graphene Materials plc​
Principal Investigator: Prof Karl Coleman1, Dr Richard Thompson1, Dr Stephen BoothroydDr David Johnson1, Dr Mike Weir2, and Prof Nigel Clarke2
Institution:s 1. University of Durham 2. University of Sheffield
Funding: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Company involvedApplied Graphene Materials

The Challenge
Graphene is a single layer of graphite arranged as a continuous network of hexagonally arranged carbon atoms, which gives rise to high carrier mobility, exceptional mechanical strength and high thermal conductivity. However, in the early years, commercialisation was limited by material availability and difficulty associated with product formulation.

Evidence of Impact        
To address this challenge Prof Coleman’s group devised a simple chemical vapour deposition/pyrolysis approach to synthesize graphene which was continuous, high yielding (gram scale) and easy to scale up. Following the successful synthesis of synthetically useful quantities of graphene the next step was to elucidate the fundamental science and devise transformative preparative solutions for the generation of new graphene dispersions and nanocomposites suitable for applications.

This was carried out through the EPSRC funded project ‘Engineering innovation in graphene nanocomposites for consumer product and packaging applications,’ a collaboration between Durham University, University of Sheffield, Applied Graphene Materials, Procter and Gamble and Dyson. This project explored the use of graphene in polymer composites for use in consumer products. Durham and Sheffield used small-angle neutron scattering at ISIS to study how the interfacial interaction between graphene and polymer and the impacts on formulation and melt processing. This research and understanding have been developed further and used for the development of new dispersion and formulation technology for graphene nanoplatelets.

Durham Chemistry’s development of a continuous synthesis of graphene nanoplatelets provided the intellectual property for the formation of the spin-out Durham Graphene Science (2010) which was listed on FTSE AIM index in November 2013 as Applied Graphene Materials plc (AGM).

The IPO valued the company at GBP26.2m. AGM has raised over GBP29.3m in venture capital funding, had 33 employees (2020 payroll, GBP2.20m) and has invested GBP2.85m in infrastructure to supply graphene for products developed with commercial partners including Halfords, SHD composites, Airbus Defence and Space, James Briggs Ltd, Century, Infinite Composites, Alltimes Coatings, Blocksil and Applied Nano Surfaces.

The role of ISIS
The ISIS experiments helped us with our understanding of polymers in a very fundamental way, firstly in understanding how proximity to graphene flakes had a subtle impact on polymer chain dimensions, which has significance for the way that graphene nanocomposites can be processed. Secondly, they showed how graphene oxide flakes are wrinkled, and that a simple ‘sheetlike’ model is not adequate to describe or predict behaviour,” Dr Richard Thompson

Experiments at Diamond Light Source showed how rheology/processing conditions could be exploited to exfoliate and align graphene nanoplates, which is likely to be significant to their barrier applications.

ISIS Instrument(s): SANS2D
ISIS Technique(s): 
Small angle neutron scattering (SANS)​

M. P. Weir, D. W. Johnson, S. C. Boothroyd, R. C. Savage, R. L. Thompson, S. M. King, S. E. Rogers, K. S. Coleman, and N. Clarke, ‘Distortion of Chain Conformation and Reduced Entanglement in Polymer−Graphene Oxide Nanocomposites​’ ACS Macro Lett. 2016, 5, 430−434. DOI: 10.1021/acsmacrolett.6b00100.
M. P. Weir, D. W. Johnson, S. C. Boothroyd, R. C. Savage, R. L. Thompson, Steven R. Parnell, A. J. Parnell, S. M. King, S. E. Rogers, K. S. Coleman, and N. Clarke, ’Extrinsic Wrinkling and Single Exfoliated Sheets of Graphene Oxide in Polymer Composites’. Chem. Mater. 2016, 28, 1698−1704. DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.5b04502.

Contact: Fletcher, Sara (STFC,RAL,ISIS)