CEO interview: Building a graphene industry, one layer at a time

August 18, 2020 // By Peter Clarke
CEO interview: Building a graphene industry, one layer at time
At some point Simon Thomas, CEO of graphene electronics pioneer Paragraf Ltd. (Somersham, England), will have some important choices to make. Product or license business model? Mainstream IC production, displays, solar panels or more-than-Moore sensors?

Thomas provided eeNews Europe with a briefing on progress at the startup he co-founded with Professor Sir Colin Humphreys from the University of Cambridge. Thomas also gave some broader thoughts about the potential of graphene, a single atomic layer material that has been hyped to the skies but has yet to deliver on its promise.

First off it should be understood that Paragraf, since its founding in 2015, has raised nearly £20 million (about $26 million) across seed and Series A equity funding rounds and developed its own R&D laboratory allowing it to produce prototype electronic devices based on its graphene deposition capabilities. Thomas said that the company has reached a head-count of fifty people and with a Hall-Effect sensor in use at CERN and being examined elsewhere, it is starting to gain some traction with industry.

The premise behind the company is that its ability to lay down contamination-free graphene without the use of a copper catalyst could place the company at the focus of a wave of graphene-enabled electronics. Paragraf's contention is that ICs made using graphene-based transistors could be ten times faster than silicon ICs, and that graphene-based chemical and electrical sensors could have sensitivity increased by a factor of more than 30 from what is currently available.

In addition, the ability to lay that graphene down using chemical vapor deposition (CVD) on conventional substrates and silicon wafers opens up the prospect of the economies of scale afforded by silicon semiconductor manufacturing.

The areas of application for graphene are broad from sensors, through transparent electronics – where it can replace expensive indium in indium tin oxide (ITO) – bioelectronics and on to conventional electronic circuits in analog and digital domains. Graphene has very high levels of electrical and thermal conductivity, exceptional electrochemical stability, large surface area and is also suitable for improving such things as solar photovoltaic cell and rapidly rechargeable batteries.

But is Paragraf going to be able do everything from wafers and materials to packaged components in all application areas?

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