By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
Posted: June 1, 2008
Some day in the not too distant future, a TV as thin as a poster could hang on your wall.
|Whiz Kid: Philip Streich|
| Age: 17|
Occupation: instead of high school, takes classes at UW-Platteville, works in James Hamilton's lab and takes online classes at Stanford University
Began at UW-Platteville: in his 9th-grade year
Has own patent pending on: system for renewable hydrogen production and storage for farms
Other interests: plays piano, guitar and other instruments, and speaks German and Spanish
Parents: retired as executives in JP Morgan's New York office after Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and moved to a 500-acre farm in Platteville
Friends: about half in high school and half in college
What he likes about working in the lab: "It's unbelievably exciting to be in the lab and to be able to go from ideas in your head and equations in the textbook to building equipment and getting results and data that seem to make sense."
Graphene Solutions is a 3-month-old company with a patent-pending technology that dissolves carbon nanotubes, graphene nanosheets and other materials so they can be purified and spread in a layer one atom thick.
That could pave the way for electronic components, like computer chips, that are dramatically smaller with much greater capacity.
"If you can very easily, reproducibly lay out a one-atom-thick layer of carbon, this is the new silicon," said Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, which helped the company get started. WARF is the patenting and licensing arm for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Graphene Solutions is applying its technology to the manufacture of graphenes like carbon nanotubes - tiny, stronger-than-steel tubes that disperse heat and conduct electricity much better than silicon. Carbon nanotubes are expected to be critical for the next generation of electronics, optics and other fields of materials science.
Graphene Solutions' technology should have uses beyond the electronic displays the company will initially focus on because its solutions can be used to make even, one-atom-thick layers of other materials, Gulbrandsen said. That should give it "tons of applications" in areas as diverse as batteries, sensors, solar cells and medical devices, he said.
"It is a platform technology," he said. "They might have created an industry."
Graphene Solutions was founded by James Hamilton, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville; Philip A. Jackson, its CEO; and Philip Streich, a 17-year-old student in Hamilton's lab.
Hamilton and Jackson have another company called Photonic Cleaning Technologies. That company makes a polymer coating that has been used to clean the Hope Diamond and some of the world's most sophisticated telescopes, optics and lasers, Jackson said.
Graphene Solutions grew out of work Hamilton, Streich and other collaborators published in the May 19 issue of Advanced Materials. Hamilton's lab had done what no one else has been able to do: dissolve graphene and make single-particle carbon nanotubes that don't clump together in bundles.
Electrons travel 100 times faster in graphene - one-atom-thick sheets of carbon that are packed in a chicken wire-like lattice - than in silicon, Hamilton said.
His lab had the time to figure out how to spread graphene evenly because UW-Platteville and the UW system bought him out of his teaching responsibilities for two years, said Maliyakal E. John, general manager of WiSys, the licensing and patenting arm for most schools in the UW System.
WARF and WiSys have several patents pending on the technology, John said. They will give Graphene Solutions the licenses it needs and explore similar opportunities with other companies, he said.
The company, one of 20 finalists in the Governor's Business Plan Contest, hopes to sell purified and size-controlled carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials to companies like Sony, Samsung and Motorola, Jackson said. Over time, it may expand into other markets like aerospace, energy and healthcare, he said.
Despite their potential, nanotubes have not established a significant market because of problems mass-manufacturing them and pricing them competitively, according to a recent market report by Freedonia Research Group. Graphene Solutions' technology solves those problems because it allows mass production of a uniform product that can be sold at reasonable prices, Jackson said.
And that's just the beginning, Hamilton says.
"We have a lot more intellectual property," he said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg."Source