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Forgotten oil shortens journey time to a sustainable future

It was 2004 when Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov discovered graphene by chance while trying to create thin layers of graphite. It is a layer of carbon atoms bonded in a hexagon pattern that is a million times thinner than paper and up to two hundred times stronger than steel. Twenty years after this discovery, we note that graphene is rarely used in commercial products. The most successful consumer product is probably the graphene tennis racket produced by Head, which reduces frame deformation and improves energy transfer. Has all the enthusiasm worn off? Not exactly.

It is possible to contribute to improving the environment by using graphene oils.

Simone Ligi

In Italy, in Bologna, there is a company, a world leader in graphene applications, which has patented a graphene production system using water combined with non-toxic substances. “I had worked for years in a famous international petrochemical company that used chlorine in processes,” says Simone Ligi, president and scientific director of Graphene XT. “I wanted to create a European product starting from a process that used non-harmful substances”. So, Simone, together with four friends, began studying the applications of graphene and, at the end of 2020, decided to focus his work on developing graphene-lubricating oils. It was a tangible way to demonstrate to the public that graphene could make fundamental changes compared to traditional oils. They had a benchmark to show the world that graphene makes a difference. “Among the many characteristics that graphene produces, there is the reduction of friction and starting from this analysis, we decided to focus on lubricating oils for engines,” says Simone Ligi.

Graphene XT’s intuition was to patent graphene production through an innovative process to produce goods for commercial use. “The lubricating oil we produce is highly innovative. It increases engine performance by 5%, reduces fuel consumption by up to 30%, lowering CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.” In short, it is a win-win situation for the user and the environment. Developing lubricating oils in a world oriented towards hybrid and electric propulsion may seem like a short-sighted choice, but this is different, according to Mr Ligi. “We will not immediately switch to electric, and in the meantime, it is possible to contribute to improving the environment by using graphene oils. It must also be said that electric motors can benefit from our innovation.” Electric motors need not accumulate electrostatic charges; using oils or graphene coatings which conduct electrically makes it possible to facilitate the dissipation of electrostatic discharges. “This type of nanotechnology can be used not only in engines but in all those systems that use gears and where there is friction.”

Over the years, it emerged that graphene was much more effective when used as a coating on existing materials rather than as a singular component. By coating the material in graphene, the chemical structure remains unchanged; however, the material’s properties are modified, which acquire the characteristics of graphene, such as resistance or electrical conductivity.

Graphene XT has recently submitted an international patent on graphene coatings, which will open exciting scenarios in a way that increasingly seeks environmental sustainability.

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Written By

Federico Bastiani is a freelance journalist, TEDx speaker, innovator, communication specialist. He writes about innovation for different media and he is also an innovator himself. In 2013 he created Social Street, a social innovation which spread all around the world and featured in the New York Times.

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