In what the company calls an industry breakthrough, Arizona based Urbix Resources has produced the first economically viable graphene-enhanced lightweight concrete.
Urbix’s research and development team created what they call a ‘Graphenesque’ additive that provides a 33% increase in compressive strength, a 32% reduction in CO2 emissions, and at a cost that is over 16% lower than the next best lightweight concrete alternative on the market.
The team has been working on the project since 2014, with the simple intent of commercializing graphite out of a mine in Mexico, Urbix Chairman Nicolas Cuevas told MINING.com.
“As the world continues to apply IoT-enabled smart materials, we are creating and opening new market potentials for graphite, directly, positively, impacting graphite demand in the world,” Cuevas said.
Urbix worked with the University of Arizona’s optical science department on methods of purifying graphite without using high temperature ovens or hydrofluoric acid. Through a trial and error purification process, they were able to make graphene through a microwave reactor the company developed.
Cuevas said graphene is a ‘wonder material’, derived from graphite. Defined as a layer of carbon atoms, global demand for graphene is expected to increase as it has been shown to improve battery technologies.
“With carbon atoms 200 times stronger than steel, it’s pretty much the plastic of now,” Cuevas said. “It’s pretty much a new revolution in materials.”
“The material performance of our solution for lightweight concrete is great,” Urbix Chief Marketing Officer Adam Small said in a statement. “But the low costs and large-scale capabilities are what makes this achievement so profound. By leveraging our existing global graphite mining relationships, we offer near vertical integration, an aspect that is almost mandatory for any company entering the graphene space.”
Testing continues, and Cuevas anticipates that they will bring the technology to market in 2020.