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A consortium including Australia’s First Graphene Limited (ASX:FGR) has been awarded a UK Government grant to develop high performance graphene-enhanced cement.

The $360,206 grant was awarded by the UK Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, and was secured by the consortium which is led by First Graphene and includes construction materials group Breedon Cement Ltd, construction and regeneration group Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure Ltd, and the University of Manchester’s Department of Mechanical, Civil and Aerospace Engineering.

The cement industry is a major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions and the Global Cement and Concrete Association, on behalf of 40 leading cement and concrete manufacturers, has committed to cutting carbon emissions by 25% by 2030.

The manufacture of clinker, which binds and strengthens cement, is a primary contributor to CO2 emissions and the UK cement industry is actively exploring methods to produce cements with lower clinker factor to increase the sustainability of cement products.

A key issue in reducing clinker factor is the associated reduction in strength and durability of cement, however substantial research has shown that small additions of PureGRAPH can overcome this problem.

First Graphene’s PureGRAPH products have previously been shown in external testing, to international standards, to enhance the performance of cement composites, increasing compressive strength by 34% and tensile strength of cement mortar by 27%.

 The project will develop a new graphene-enhanced cement (GR-CEM) product utilising PureGRAPH additives. GR-CEM will represent a step change in performance, enabling a reduction in the clinker factor and the use of alternative, lower carbon supplementary materials such as limestone and calcined clay to reduce the overall CO2 burden.

 In addition, the project involves optimising graphene dispersion and injection technologies, as well as validating the economic viability, safety and specific CO2 reduction impacts of GR-CEM.

The grant was awarded through Innovate UK’s Transforming Foundation Industries (TFI) program, a competitive process that involves extensive expert review.

Total project costs will be $456,555, with First Graphene’s share of the grant totalling $224,817. The collaborative project, which was due to commence on 1 February 2022, is planned to run over a 12-month period.

The new technologies developed by the consortium will be piloted in a cement manufacturing facility and the performance evaluated through extensive testing against construction industry standards. Requirements for concrete product performance will be guided and evaluated by a leading construction company in a real-world project.

This is one of several recent advances in the cement sector. In January, First Graphene announced an agreement with global construction chemicals manufacturer Fosroc International Limited for the development of PureGRAPH graphene-enhanced cement grinding aids.

 In late 2021, First graphene also filed a patent specification with the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office that describes a novel method of scaling up the production of graphene suspensions for use in cement additives and concrete admixtures.

Research work carried out by the University of Wollongong last year also found major improvement in sulphate resistance using PureGRAPH in structural concrete and repairmortar systems. The Company also has research, development and commercialisation programs underway with cement and concrete specialists in South Africa and New Zealand.

 “We are delighted to be working with industry leading partners Breedon and Morgan Sindall, as well as the University of Manchester, which together represent a powerful consortium of producers, users, specifiers and researchers along the concrete supply chain,” First Graphene Managing Director and CEO Michael Bell said.

“This as an excellent opportunity to develop graphene enhanced concrete products at scale with exceptional visibility across the cement and construction sectors. It is also a major achievement to have secured this funding in a very competitive environment, which is testament to the consortium’s manufacturing and engineering capabilities.

“It is important to note that this is one of multiple collaborations with industry that the Company is undertaking with a view to building our pipeline of commercial opportunities over the coming months.”

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