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Innovation & Job News

Inventing the Future: Graphene Frontiers gears up to produce 'super-material'

The Graphene Team


Thanks to a $745,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and help from an undisclosed partner, Graphene Frontiers is gearing up to produce graphene. This "super material" -- only one atom thick—is ten times stronger than diamonds and the best known conductor of electricity. In the next 18 to 24 months, Graphene Frontiers, which works out of the University City Science Center’s Port Business Incubator, expects to become one of the world first producers.
In order to handle the massive manufacturing startup costs, Graphene Frontiers is working with a local corporation. The partners have developed a new type of diagnostic tool -- called a field effect transistor (FET) biosensor -- that use graphene to improve how disease is detected.
"We've been so focused on making graphene and proving that it was possible to make it high quality," says CEO Mike Patterson. "We're not going to build a $100 million dollar facility and crank out sheets of graphene. We had to find the right application."
Current diagnostic devices rely on silicon wafers. The wafer contains targets for disease indicators including antibodies, antigens and other foreign chemicals. A patient's fluid sample (usually blood or urine) is applied to the microchip and disease markers bind to the targets. To confirm a diagnosis, however, doctors run multiple tests for various indicators. It’s time consuming and costly.
Ultra-thin graphene channels give the FET biosensor superior sensitivity. The device can test for several indicators at once and provide an instantaneous diagnosis.
Recently, Graphene Frontiers hired two material scientists. The FET biosensors will be created for biochemistry research departments and pharmaceutical developers. In five years, if the new device receives FDA approval, doctors and health practitioners will become the next market. One day, label-free bio-sensors could even be used at home for self-diagnosis.
"We can do so much with graphene," says Patterson. "The real question is what are we going to do?"
The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.

Source: Mike Patterson, Graphene Frontiers
Writer: Dana Henry
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