Design News is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

NETL Earns Patent for New Process to Produce Carbon Nanosheets

ATU Images/The Image Bank via Getty Images carbon-nanosheets-GettyImages-877212908.jpg
Carbon nanosheets can be made from domestically sourced coal and coal wastes to improve the strength of composite materials as well as the performance of battery electrodes.
The process transforms coal into a carbon material that can be used to manufacture valuable products and generate jobs in coal communities as the nation transitions to clean energy.

For an alternative to burning coal and generating greenhouse gas, National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) researchers have developed a low-cost process that uses domestically sourced coal and coal wastes as the feedstock to produce carbon nanosheets. This invention earned NETL a U.S. patent, 19N-01.NP1USPN 11,535,518, Production of Graphene-Structured Products from Coal Using Thermal Molten Salt Process, which is now available for licensing.

Carbon nanosheets consist of several atomic layers of carbon and can be used to improve the strength of composite materials and the performance of battery electrodes. They may find utility in manufacturing, fuel-efficient vehicles, durable roads and bridges, and new uses for coal resources. However, despite such potential, carbon nanosheets have not yet been widely used in consumer products given challenges in producing affordable quantities of the material, NETL explained in a news release.

NETL’s process eliminates the need for expensive graphite feedstocks, relying instead on inexpensive components—lignite, bituminous and anthracite ranks of coal, and potassium chloride or sodium chloride (salts). These materials are then heated in a simple process to produce a graphene-like material that is significantly less expensive and of superior quality for use in a wide range of real-world applications, according to the researchers.

“One of the primary applications involves using this carbon product to manufacture improved vehicle parts such as lighter and stronger bumpers, door panels and other components, which increases safety, saves fuel and extends the number of miles an electric vehicle can travel on a single charge,” explained NETL’s Fan Shi, the project’s lead inventor, in the release.

NETL is also evaluating the use of carbon nanosheets as an additive for improving the mechanical strength and corrosion resistance of cement and concrete composites for construction, which Shi said is critical to building better highways, bridges, and basic infrastructure.

Carbon Nanosheets and More?

Other commercial applications for NETL’s carbon material technologies are being investigated through the partnerships with industry and academia. For instance, NETL is collaborating with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to develop atomically thin carbon materials for computer memory devices and other microelectronics. This research could dramatically increase the nation’s ability to produce computer chips at a time when the offshore nature of this industry has caused supply chain disruptions. 

“These NETL technologies can also create new markets for coal, which will also help revitalize coal communities as the United States transitions to a clean energy economy, and remediate environmental problems associated with past mining and energy production practices in those communities,” Shi said.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.