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A reactor to produce graphene, Made In India

Indian Institute of Science and KAS Tech have together developed India's first commercially available,  graphene producing system. The  Centre for Nano Science and Engineering (CeNSE), IISc developed the technology, and working together with KAS Tech, a Bengaluru based manufacturing company, they transformed the lab prototype into a commercial product. The product was launched during the recently held Bangalore INDIA NANO.

Named 'Ocean', the system is a chemical vapour depositor that can produce various two dimensional materials including graphene. Two dimensional materials are sheets made of a single layer of atoms and are expected to enable the flexible lightweight electronics of the future. Graphene, a form of carbon, is conductor of the 2D world. There are semiconductors and insulators, the three necessary ingredients to make an electronic circuit.  A sheet of graphene is just one atom thick: millions and millions times thinner than a sheet of paper. It is remarkably light, and yet, hundred times stronger than steel, and has extraordinary electrical, thermal, and optical properties. In the near future, many novel applications like flexible displays made of graphene, are expected to hit the market. If India wants to ride on the graphene bandwagon, it is imperative that it should find its own ways to manufacture the material. 'Ocean', the result of a successful industry-academia collaboration, is definitely a step in the right direction.

Using a “Continuous CVD” option, Ocean' can grow a single layer of graphene in 15 minutes over large areas, whereas the reactors available in the market take a much longer time of 3 to 4 hrs. It can very quickly morph into a reactor that can grow other two dimensional materials too. It has automated systems to control the flow of various, often poisonous gases – a necessity in a graphene reactor. A highly integrated and portable system, it is designed to enable a “Plug and Grow” user friendly approach that only requires a power, water and exhaust connection at the user end to get started.   As it is Made in India, servicing the machine is very easy. For imported machines, servicing is a big headache as the technician has to fly in from another country causing huge delays when the tool is down.

Graphene, a form of carbon, is thought to be the material of the future. A sheet of graphene is just one  atom thick: millions and millions times thinner than a sheet of paper. It is remarkably light, and yet, hundred times stronger than steel, and has extraordinary electrical, thermal, and optical properties. In the near future, many novel applications like flexible displays made of graphene, are expected to hit the market. If India wants to ride on the graphene bandwagon, it is imperative that it should find its own ways to manufacture the material. 'Ocean', the result of a successful industry-academia collaboration, is definitely a step in the right direction.

“This effort is first of its kind in India”, says Manjunath, KAS Tech, proudly. Though there have been some efforts developing a machine of this kind, they didn't meet customer expectations. KAS Tech worked very closely with Srinivasan Raghavan, Professor, CeNSE, IISc, who developed the 'Chemical Vapour Deposition' unit. Over a period of two years, KAS Tech and Prof Raghavan's team converted the lab prototype into a commercial product. Though the new machine is aimed at both domestic and international consumption, Professor Srinivasan believes “India itself will be a market that can sustain products like this”..

“Manufacturing electronic devices requires highly sophisticated machines. As a country, we should also think about manufacturing those machines India. Otherwise, it's like running a car industry without steel mills”, says Professor Srinivasan. Though India is one of the largest consumers of the electronic products, it hardly manufactures anything. In 2008-09, the Indian market consumed electronic items worth USD 45 billion, and the figure may rise to USD 400 billion by 2020. Unless corrective measures are taken electronic imports far exceed oil imports by 2020.

Developing this product has been a great learning curve for both Professor Srinivasan and KAS Tech. “While building a commercial product that can be used by everyone, there are so many things to be considered. We had to learn on the go”, says Manjunath. Prof. Srinivasan is quick to point out the important role played by his industry partner. “Without interaction with KAS Tech, we couldn't have developed our prototype into a product. It is incredible that a young company would put a significant amount of resources to this project”. Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), played a key role in the development of this product. Both Mr. Manjunath and Prof. Srinivasan  stressed on the importance of the Multiplier Grants Scheme of DeitY to the success of this project and recommended that it should be continued and advertised more strongly.

Manjunath says that 'Ocean' has already garnered some interest, and he is receiving enquiries from potential customers. With most of the hard work done, and the technological applications of graphene being realised day by day, IISc and KAS Tech are all set for an exciting journey ahead.

Prof Srinivasan Raghavan can be contacted at +91 80 2293 3322.