01If, or, more likely, when Dr. David Mitlin’s patented, bio-derived carbon nanosheets become a basic building block for the next generation of energy storage, the University of Alberta will have minor bragging rights.

Dr. Mitlin was a professor and leading researcher in the Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering at the University of Alberta for 10 years. Here in Edmonton, his team developed his carbon nanosheets (graphene) made from waste material like hemp, peanut and egg shells.

Graphene is a super-material, a two-dimensional atomic-scale honey-comb lattice that excites both the scientific and business worlds due to its extraordinary properties and potential applications in the semiconductor industry.

But producing graphene at this point is a most expensive proposition. Made from waste materials, Dr. Mitlin’s graphene is a promising, inexpensive way to manufacture large quantities of carbon nanosheets with the added bonus of being environmentally sound.

Dr. Mitlin worked closely with TEC Edmonton’s Technology Management division to initiate patent protection of the process. The researcher and TEC Edmonton (which acts as the technology management agent for the University of Alberta) decided to seek potential licensees, rather than form a spin-off company.

In the meantime, Dr. Mitlin left the U of A in 2014 to be a professor and General Electric Chair in Oil and Gas Systems at Clarkson University in Potsdam, in the state of New York, USA. He remains an Adjunct Professor here at the University of Alberta.

This new, inexpensive method of producing graphene has attracted much attention from industry. “The current cost of making graphene is about $30 a gram,” says Dr. Mitlin. “We can make it for much, much less.”

In collaboration with Dr. Mitlin, Florida-based CQuest Partners recently secured the license to Mitlin’s graphene portfolio from the University of Alberta. It’s one of the most valuable licensing deals that TEC Edmonton has done.

With Dr. Mitlin as Chief Technology Officer, CQuest is partnering with a university to create a carbon nanosheet  research and development centre and to actually manufacture the waste-derived carbon nanosheets in nearby Potsdam, New York.

The commercial applications for CQuest’s organic carbon nanosheets are enormous, CQuest Partners President Gary Carboneau says, with energy storage increasingly crucial to industry.

Certainly Dr. Mitlin is optimistic. “We have a creative research group. We know what’s out there in the agricultural world as feedstock to create bio-energy storage materials. Stay tuned!”