An entrepreneurial academic from The University of Manchester has produced a prototype graphene-enhanced product that could help the UK recycle tonnes of unwanted tyres – a waste product that is sometimes shipped overseas for disposal.
It is claimed that Western countries like the UK export waste tyres to developing nations like India where they are destroyed by burning - and so impacting on the local environment.
Dr Vivek Koncherry has launched a company called SpaceBlue Ltd that aims to recycle waste tyres by converting them into attractive and extremely hardwearing floor mats which have been enhanced with tiny amounts of graphene.
The hexagon-shaped SpaceMat™ can interlock to cover any desired floor area. They can be used at the entrances of homes, offices, public and industrial buildings, as well as wider applications such as anti-fatigue or anti-slip coverings in areas like workplaces, gyms, playgrounds and swimming pools.
Prototype mats will be revealed at a Graphene Industry Showcase to be hosted on December 10 and 11 at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC). This two-day event aims to put a spotlight on innovations associated with graphene and two-dimensional materials and will therefore feature a wide range of pioneering products.
“The innovation ecosystem at Manchester has been really supportive to someone like me who has a new business idea they want to take to market,” explained Dr Koncherry, who is an expert in materials applications and new manufacturing techniques.
“It all began when I first read newspaper reports that several thousand tonnes of waste UK tyres are being shipped abroad each year for disposal. I thought that needs to change and I became determined to find a much more sustainable way of using this end-of-life product.
“The intention of SpaceBlue is to enhance the physical properties of recycled rubber waste that has come from discarded vehicle tyres or footwear - and convert this material into a high-value product,” explained Dr Koncherry.
“SpaceMat™ is made of up to 80 per cent recycled rubber plus 20 per cent of graphene-enhanced natural rubber. Floor mats undergo compression and a fundamental study had shown that by adding graphene into the rubber it can double the compression strength - and this in turn increases durability.”
James Baker, CEO of Graphene@Manchester, added: “Vivek’s vision to support a more sustainable society by creating a better performing product through the use of graphene is really exciting and has already generated interest.
“Moreover, we’re looking forward to collaborating with SpaceBlue via our ‘Bridging the Gap’ programme which will further support the development of the mats.”
Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) the ‘Bridging the Gap’ initiative has been developed to proactively engage with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Greater Manchester and allow them to explore and apply graphene and other advanced two-dimensional materials in a wide range of applications and markets.