JESSUP, Md.—Vorbeck Materials Corp. has signed a joint development agreement with Reliance Industries Ltd. to develop graphene-enhanced synthetic rubber products.
Vorbeck produces graphene products for applications in antennas, RFID, wearables, next-generation battery development, composites and conductive inks. The firm was born out of a Princeton Research Lab. Its headquarters and manufacturing plant are located in Jessup, just south of Baltimore.
Its research and development is still housed in Princeton, N.J. The firm employs about 100.
Reliance said the partnership opens the door to many potential applications. The firm's strong presence in Asia and India was attractive to Vorbeck. Production will take place in both India and the U.S.
“In looking at the rubber industry, we had a number of interesting developments,” Vorbeck CEO John Lettow said. “It's an industry where scale is important and Reliance is a major manufacturer of synthetic rubber and plastics. In partnering with them it allows us to bring a scale to the products that, as a smaller company, we wouldn't have otherwise. They also have been aggressive about innovation. So there's a nice match in terms of their drive to innovate and add value to the products that they make along with Vorbeck's history of grapheme-enhanced products.”
The tire industry is one where Lettow believes graphene will have a significant impact, but the executive stressed the partnership is not limited to any one industry as he believes Vorbeck's graphene can impact a number of different areas throughout rubber.
“One of the key things we have found is providing grapheme-based products rather than graphene as a raw material,” Lettow said. “The potential for graphene-based products is over $10 billion in terms of the industries that it could impact when you look at the potential impact it could have in tires, hoses, seals and gaskets, and also in wearable electronics and the defense industry. It's a material with enormous market potential.”
Vorbeck already has developed the first product in its new family of graphene-enhanced engineered elastomer products, Vor-flex 50, which is an HNBR rubber modified with Vorbeck's Vor-x graphene. The firm said the graphene provides Vor-flex 50 with extreme strength at low deformation and the ability to withstand temperature spikes up to 200°F.
The new product has a nominal tensile strength of 3,500 psi and a Shore A hardness of 88. The firm said Vorflex is ideal for making custom gaskets designed for severe applications because the material provides a tough seal and is resistant to chemicals and fuels.