Urbix Resources, an advanced graphite company based in Mesa, Arizona, has produced the first economically viable graphene-enhanced lightweight concrete, an achievement that represents an industry breakthrough.
Designed in collaboration with one of the world’s largest producers of lightweight concrete, Urbix’s solution delivers material performance improvements, but at a cost that is lower than current lightweight concrete alternatives. A graphene industry first.
Others have tested graphene as an additive in cement and concrete in the past, seeking to improve a variety of concrete’s performance characteristics. Urbix’s research and development team solved the challenge by creating what they call a Graphenesque™ additive that provides a 33 percent increase in compressive strength, a 32 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, and at a cost that is 16.6 percent lower than the next best lightweight concrete alternative on the market.
“It is ultimately the cost of the additive versus benefits of performance that have to be compared with any incumbent technology, especially graphene products,” explains Urbix Chairman Nicolas Cuevas. “That cost versus benefit is the real barrier that’s been keeping graphene out of commercial products until now.”
Urbix is known primarily for its low cost and environmentally friendly flake graphite purification for Li-ion batteries but is quickly establishing itself as one of the premier vertically integrated providers of graphene and Graphenesque™ products.
“The material performance of our solution for lightweight concrete is great,” says Urbix Chief Marketing Officer Adam Small. “But the low costs and large-scale capabilities are what makes this achievement so profound. By leveraging our existing global graphite mining relationships, we offer near vertical integration, an aspect that is almost mandatory for any company entering the graphene space.”
The additive is made in a way that is similar in infrastructure to Urbix’s proprietary purification process, for which a full-scale plant is currently being developed in the Phoenix area. At pilot scale production, it is expected the plant will be capable of producing in excess of 100 metric tons of the concrete additive monthly by the end of 2019. For reference, that amount will be enough material to produce between 10,000 and 40,000 metric tons of the new Urbix-enhanced lightweight concrete. This production figure will be scaled significantly higher beyond 2020.
At present, testing and certification continue. Urbix and their associates anticipate that they will bring the technology to market in 2020.