Graphene start-ups look to support sustainable futures

Mon, 19 Oct 2020 13:47:00 BST

Graphene entrepreneurs from the University are putting social responsibility at the centre of their new businesses.

SpaceBlue, based in the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), has launched the first of a range of products made from recycled vehicle tyres. Company founder Dr Vivek Koncherry has developed SpaceMat, a flooring product that uses graphene to improve dramatically the performance of recycled rubber tyres.

“It all began when I first read newspaper reports that several thousand tonnes of waste UK tyres are being shipped abroad each year for disposal,” said Dr Koncherry. “I thought that needs to change and I became determined to find a much more sustainable way of using this end-of-life product,”

While another GEIC-based company, AEH Innovative Hydrogel Ltd, has landed £1m in government funding to trial a graphene-enhanced growth system that could revolutionise food production.

The GelPonic system is the brainchild of Dr Beenish Siddique and will essentially help to reduce transportation and cut ‘food miles’ to improve sustainability in farming worldwide.

GelPonic’s hydrogel growth medium conserves water and filters out pathogens, while a graphene sensor allows remote monitoring.

“We believe there is an opportunity to change the future of farming,” said Dr Siddique.“Globally, around 70% of the fresh water available to humans is used for agriculture and 60% of that is wasted; agriculture also contributes around 20% of global greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Our system helps control that waste and those emissions, shortens germination times and could enable an increase of 25% in crop yields.”