In late February and early March 2017, we exhibited our graphene technology at the Graphene Experience Zone of the Mobile World Congress. The Graphene Experience Zone featured five different innovation areas: IoT and Sensors; Wearables and Health; Energy; Datacoms; and Composites. Each of these areas contained specialised demonstrators and prototypes developed by leading industry and academic partners.

FGV Cambridge Nanosystems displayed our instantly hot, super-thin, cutting-edge graphene heater technology which can be incorporated in any design and size – whether it be in the form of the famous Cambridge backs landscape or The Beatles crossing the Abbey Road – across the home and industrial applications. At just a few microns thick, the heater is in fact simply a graphene based paint. When dried, the graphene coating forms an electrically conductive layer. By ensuring the coating has a specific resistance, it heats up when electricity flows through it due to an effect known as joule heating. This is not a new phenomenon, in fact it’s how many heaters already operate. We have taken this tried and trusted heating method, and with the use of graphene created an extremely flexible heater, with very low thermal mass that can heat up almost instantly. These novel advantages make heated seats a very interesting first application area. FGV Cambridge Nanosystems has embarked on a few projects to demonstrate graphene heaters in seat applications. These seats can be heated up very rapidly, and a separate Bluetooth controller can be used to control the temperature of specific areas of the seat.

Existing flexible heaters almost exclusively rely on printed copper tracks or flexible wires held onto a flexible substrate. While these heaters have their uses, they don’t come without drawbacks. Firstly, they only heat locally around the metal tracks. This is a problem where you want uniform heating. Second, if the conductive track is broken, then the whole heater stops working. The graphene based heated uses the entire graphene coated surface as a heating element, and thus you have uniform heating. In addition, the graphene heater carries on working when there is localised damage.

Graphene has a very low thermal mass, which is key to allowing extremely fast heat up and cool down. In addition, very little energy goes into heating up of the heater itself, but instead heats the surroundings through conduction, convection or radiation depending on the set-up. This will ultimately result in an energy saving, as you have greater control of what you want to heat up.

There are two broad application areas for graphene heaters: warming things up to around 200°C, or keeping things from getting cold. Our heated seat demo fits into the first category, along with underfloor heating, heated blankets and heated curtains. The second category is very important for prevent ice build-up, particularly in the aerospace industry where it can be used on aircraft wings, propellers or helicopter blades to prevent ice buildup.

By Anna Mieczakowski and Michael Schmid