Conquering the material of the future in the most sustainable way
Trovant Technologies’ biographene, which placed second at the 2018 Explorer awards, aims to take one step further on the path to obtaining the material of the future
“Progress is moving forward together as a society towards a more egalitarian world which is more respectful of our natural resources,” begins Jose Manuel Estrada when asked about progress. The young man from Valladolid is a partner at Trovant Technologies, a Spanish company based in Zaragoza that today attempts to obtain the material that will become the material of the future – graphene – through a non-polluting biological process. They call their creation biographene, and it has so far attracted the interest of various experts and the media.
Despite the hundreds of investigations carried out recently at different universities in the European Union regarding the material, graphene was randomly discovered only a few years ago. “It is a material essentially made up of pure carbon atoms with very interesting properties, above all due to its physical properties, its resistance, and also due to its lack of significant weight, and electrical properties. It is a very good conductor of electricity, and is the reason it has all kinds of interesting uses related to electronics and the use of batteries.”
Someone who is unaware of the existence of this material would be surprised with the number of companies and research centers that have shown interest in it in recent years. However, it is not surprising when all of its properties are taken into account. It is flexible, elastic, extremely durable, and posseses high level thermal and electrical conductivity. “Like I say, graphene has applications in electronics and batteries and, for example, could be used to manufacture electric vehicles”.
However, graphene currently comes from raw materials that are non-renewable. “Graphene is obtained from natural gas or graphite, which in turn has to be extracted from the earth by mining,” Estrada says with some concern, but with the conviction that there are solutions for this: “Our project consists of a process of transforming organic waste into graphene through a combination of biological and chemical processes, we call it biographene.” His company, Trovant Technologies, which in 2018 achieved second place in Santander Bank’s Explorer Awards a culmination of the Explorer Program for young entrepreneurs, is now in the middle of seeking the funding needed to operate their first plant.
“The Explorer project was essential for us. We were coming from a world that was more academic and scientific. Before I started working with Explorer, I didn’t know some basic business concepts, like for example a viable minimum project and, as a result of working every day on it, we were able to design the company and start to develop it in a more tangible way”.
As a finalist, Estrada had the opportunity to visit the Silicon Valley along with the other projects and meet the rest of the young Spanish entrepreneurs. At the mecca of international innovation, he was able to attend conferences by experts in their field and walk through the depths of some of the world’s leading companies, like Facebook, Google, and Airbnb. “It has been a very interesting experience, you spend time with people who have great ideas and who in turn are able to give you new points of view to your own”.
Entrepreneuring is always a risky venture. Even more so when it involves a project as ambitious as the creation of biographene. “We are missing one final push with financing, this is a very expensive project, but in theory we have established all the bases that allow us to believe that in 2019 we can finally take major steps and put our ideas into practice.” Undoubtedly, despite the price of their initial investment, Trovant Technologies’ project is more aligned with the concept of circular economy than any other in their field. It reuses waste and plans to collaborate with the waste treatment industry to create graphene from, for example, organic waste taken from livestock, wastewater, or materials and solid waste from any city.
Aware of the environment and sure that his idea will be able to transform the way of obtaining graphene in the future, Estrada advocates for a world in which companies are aware of the strategic requirements to be taken into account to improve our society. “Nowadays, every project should be based on the circular economy, it is fundamental.” His personal and business commitment, biographene, could change your current concept of obtaining the material in our lifetimes.