Michael Edwards, Business Director, Advanced Materials Division
One of the few experienced producers of graphene in the industry, Thomas Swan & Co. Ltd. holds a rich heritage in custom chemical production, which dates back to 1926 when it was founded as an independent chemical manufacturing company. Over the years, the organization has evolved and expanded into the production of advanced materials such as 2D graphene and boron nitride.
After the discovery of graphene in 2004, Harry Swan, 4th generation CEO of the family-owned business, decided to set up a separate division dedicated to advanced materials, having already worked on Carbon Nanotubes. Graphene has been heralded as a game-changer owing to its properties such as lightweight, mechanical strength, fire-retardancy, and high conductivity. It offers real value to businesses and has multiple applications in industries such as composites, inks, coatings, and lubricants. However, the challenge of providing pristine single-layer, defect-free graphene and the ability to produce quality volumes of graphene for real-world application remains a discussion point for academics and industrialists. Thomas Swan, leveraging their vast experience and expertise in advanced materials, has successfully perfected the art of creating graphene materials to fit their customers’ demands. Using a patented “Liquid-phase Exfoliation” process, they can produce 20 to 40 ton of GNP (Graphene Nanoplatelets) in various dispersions. “We develop and deliver advanced materials that offer incremental performance benefits and deliver value to our customers,” says Michael Edwards, the business director of Advanced Materials Division.
With extensive experience in custom material manufacturing, Thomas Swan assists their clients at every stage in their product lifecycle, from formulation development to building and bringing it to the market.
We develop and deliver advanced materials that are sustainable, ready for market, and ensure incremental performance benefits to our customers
The company typically develops an understanding of the client’s product and accordingly offers the desired materials in multiple forms. “We engage our scientists with the end customer’s scientists to optimize the dispersion of graphene and work with alternative surfactants that serve as the right medium to integrate with their end product,” explains Edwards.
In one such instance, Thomas Swan assisted Graphene Composites, an armor products manufacturer. The client was looking for ways to strengthen their product called GC shield, which is a bulletproof pad used to protect children and teachers in case of a shootout in American schools. Thomas Swan integrated graphene into their end composite, which can withstand a bullet from an AK-47. As a result, the client benefitted significantly owing to the improved strength of the shield. Edwards emphasizes the fact that in delivering for our customer, we needed to deliver a consistent, repeatable dispersion, Thomas Swan required absolute control over the process and stringent quality standards to ensure quality in the product. “It is the ability to consistently reproduce good quality products and mitigate the inherent challenge that always exists between the academic process and the manufactured product that distinguishes us from other players,” adds Edwards.
In each of its projects, the company ensures a consistent focus on quality, innovation, and sustainability, cementing its position in the industry. Thomas Swan has a license from Trinity College of Dublin, which makes them the sole licensee of the ‘Liquid-Phase Exfoliation’ process and their patents for scale-up of their internal process. In the future, Thomas Swan looks forward to expanding into the nano-s composite area in the U.S. market utilizing the strengths of their subsidiary firm in New Jersey, Swan Chemical Inc. The company has already conducted successful tests, where they have registered significant improvements in the tensile strength of PA6 and other polymers, as well as enhancing the compressive strength of concrete. The latter implies a substantial reduction in carbon emissions and solidifies the organization’s philosophy to contribute towards sustainable development of the World.