TechInvest spoke to Moti Gross, the CEO of Dotz Nano, ASX listed technology company focusing on the development and commercialisation of graphene quantum dots (GQDs).
You may have heard of Quantum dots (QDs), the extremely small semiconductor particles being used specifically in the display market with SUHD Samsung TVs using QDs to improve colour and energy.
About 2,000 to 20,000 times smaller than the width of a single human hair, QDs are designed to absorb the UV light and emit it as another color to fluoresce. QDs far outperform their chemical counterparts in brightness, color and durability.
The issue is that quantum dots are currently produced out of cadmium and other heavy metals, resulting in high toxicity.
The fact that Samsung and other leading companies are adopting quantum dots shows the high demand for this material. What Dotz Nano is doing is bringing it to the next level with the wonder material – graphene – the lightest and strongest material discovered on earth, 200 times stronger than steel, and with the highest electrical and thermal conductivity.
Founded in 2014, Dotz is the only company able to commercialise large quantities of graphene quantum dots. Dotz has found a method to produce GQDs that are non-toxic, inexpensive to produce and have high production yields and high quantum efficiency. This is done by using coal, in a one-step process. Therefore GQDs can be an alternative to inorganic and toxic QDs.
What’s so special about graphene quantum dots?
GQDs can create a shift in the applications market allowing traditional applications to achieve performance levels otherwise not considered possible. GQDs significantly improve brightness in colours (look at the display market), increase battery efficiency, and in healthcare GQDs hold the promise for early cancer imaging and detection.
“Our GQDs are truly unique because they are made out of coal, they are cheaper and have a more efficient production process compared to the options available today” Gross commented. Dotz’s GQDs are based on a process developed by Rice University’s Prof. James Tour, one of the most influential scientists in the world. The process greatly reduces manufacturing costs, and has a 10 times greater production yield, allowing for a large supply of inexpensive GQDs.
“We had a breakthrough with Prof. Tour’s discovery, and today we can produce graphene quantum dots at a level of around 65% quantum yield, that is, the ratio of energy applied versus the energy expended, making it very competitive and comparable to metallic quantum dots” Gross stated.
Beyond displays, GQDs can be used in a multitude of industries. Dotz’s focus is on four key markets: optical brighteners, as with detergents and textiles, anti-counterfeiting, displays, and bio-imaging. In detergents, textiles and carpets, GQDs are a superior optical brightener, while in anti-counterfeiting they are used as taggants in security derived applications. To put things into perspective, 1 gram of graphene quantum dots is enough to tag 10,000 casino chips.
“We have some research that shows by adding graphene into the cathode of a lithium ion battery, we can increase its life cycle from around 500 charges to possibly 1500, and also increase the fast charge elements by around 40 per cent” Gross added.
Dotz Nano’s progress since listing on the ASX
The Company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in November 2016, with Australia being a natural port of call for Dotz. “The ASX was a readily available route to market with an appetite to fund growth capital for new technology and catapult us to the next stage of our development”, Gross commented.
Australia is also close to one of Dotz’s key markets, Asia and the listing has enhanced its corporate credibility with business partners in the region. In the last couple of months alone, the company signed agreements with Strem Chemicals, Japanese Mainami Holdings, in addition to key partnerships with Kyung Hee University in South Korea and with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. In collaboration with NTU in Singapore, Dotz has established the first ever Graphene Quantum Dot Research Center in the world. With a US$16 million investment over 5 years, the research center will focus on developing new application uses for GQDs. Together with NTU, Dotz recently announced the development of a GQD embedded cathode for use in the Lithium ion battery market which will substantially increase performance and battery metrics.
The company was also awarded a A$1.2 million commercial grant from the the US-Israel Binational Research and Development (BIRD) foundation for the establishment of Dotz’s production facilities in the USA together with manufacturing partner Pflaumer Brothers.
Recently, Dotz signed an agreement with Sigma Aldrich, the world’s largest chemical distributor that sells through its online and printed catalogues, making the company’s GQDs available to purchase on the site. Dotz’s GQDs will be marketed under Sigma Aldrich’s logo to over 1 million life science customers globally.
The Company has moved from research and development to full commercialisation.
“We are in talks with first tier companies in the display, chemical, anti-counterfeiting markets, to commercialise our graphene quantum dots. The fact that Dotz is the sole company able to produce large quantities of non-toxic GQDs, at high quantum yield, and at a much cheaper production cost, is what makes it so interesting” Gross stated.