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Australian technology start-up gets graphene into world-first civil engineering product

Sydney-based Imagine Intelligent Materials has announced the first industrial application for graphene, in smart geotextiles, with technology licensed to Geofabrics Australasia and used to monitor the integrity of containment cells.

According to a statement from the company today, the invention is new to the world and will use the unique properties of graphene-based coatings to offer “Australian civil engineering companies an easy to install and cost competitive leak detection system with application[s] in landfill, mining and water.”

Graphene is an atom-thin layer of carbon atoms, first isolated in 2004, and boasting properties including being  most electrically conductive material (at room temperature) known.

The bidim nonwoven geotextiles product by Geofabrics Australasia is coated by Imagine IM’s Imgne G3 solution. Last scale field trials of G3-coated bidim have proven the leak detection benefits of the application, according to the release.

According to research by Markets and Markets, the global market for geosynthetics is currently growing by 10 per cent annually, and will reach $US 16 billion in 2018.

Simple, large surface-area sensors are an ideal, real-world application for the nanomaterial, which is generally produced solely for research purposes.

“Numerous people have described graphene as being able to do almost anything except  escape from the laboratory,” said Imagine IM CEO Chris Gilbey in the statement.

“We are about to  prove them wrong.”

The company predicts Australian demand for Imgne G3 to exceed 100 tonnes’ worth of graphene annually within five years.

As first reported by Manufacturers’ Monthly, Imagine IM will open a pilot plant for graphene production at the site of Austeng Engineering (which will built the plant) in Geelong this year. The goal was announced as producing graphene for “smart geotextiles”.

Further sensing applications are planned for the nanomaterial.

“So that’s our goal, to move into these kind of technologies,” Dr Phil Aitchison, Imagine IM’s chief operating officer, told Manufacturers’ Monthly in March.

“Very simple technologies, but applied in a way that makes them ubiquitous and smart – but not complicated.”

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