Graphene is invisible and a single atom thick, yet reported to be the strongest, most conductive and lightest material ever discovered. But it is also expensive to produce at scale, difficult to work with and is found primarily in research labs.
Despite the hurdles of working with the substance, Vollebak is releasing graphene-coated jackets as experimental prototypes, a recent article in Printed Electronics World says. The company’s goal is to “get graphene out of the lab and into the field to harness the collective power of early adopters as a test group,” the article reports.
Vollebak harnessed the elusive component by turning raw graphite into graphene nanoplatelets. Small stacks of the platelets were blended with polyurethane to create a thin membrane. The membrane was then bonded to nylon to create a new material that can conduct heat or energy.
The first prototype acted as a conductor for a power source placed at one “end” of the jacket and lit up a light bulb at the other “end” of the jacket. The team incorporated safety aspects into the design; the latest version has spread out the nanoplatelets so the jacket conducts electricity at a “far lower” level.
Graphene and performance
The first Graphene Jacket is reversible and has one side coated in graphene. The other side is made from high-strength Italian-made matte black nylon combined with 15 percent elastane for stretch. Each panel of the jacket is cut with lasers; because of the cost, waste is not an option. The panels are then bonded and the seams sealed to make it waterproof.
Depending on which side is out and the activity level of the user, Vollebak says the jacket will interact with the wearer’s body and the world in different ways. The article says that lab tests have shown that the closer to the body the material is, the more effective it will be at regulating skin temperature and increasing it by an average of 2 degrees Celsius.
The jacket can be heated by exposure to the sun or over a radiator, for example, with the graphene side exposed to the heat source. Worn against the skin, the graphene acts like a radiator, retaining and spreading heat around the body. As well as being bacteriostatic, the graphene membrane is said to be hypoallergenic, anti-static and certified as nontoxic.