Giulio Cesareo, CEO of Directa Plus and Laura Giorgia Rizzi, R&D Manager, talk to Natalie Daniels about incorporating graphene into sportswear.
Tell me about Directa Plus.
Giulio Cesareo: We are one of the largest suppliers of graphene-based materials. The company was first established in 2005 to explore the potential commercial applications of graphene nanomaterials and develop a production process to facilitate the production of graphene on a mass scale while maintaining a consistent standard of quality. Our G+ technology is covered by 12 patents.
How have you incorporated graphene into textiles?
GC: Since the beginning, our production process has been designed around plasma super-expansion – we separate the different layers of graphene from graphite without use of surfactants or other toxic chemicals that can limit the use of the material in real-life applications.
Laura Rizzi: We produce different graphene-based materials according to the application we are developing – the materials are dispersible in many types of polymers. For the textile industry, we develop different compounds to fit with the client’s manufacturing process – these are then printed, laminated and coated on the final layer of the fabric. We are able to mix graphene with a polymeric compound to apply this coating on many different types of fabrics, following standard textile procedures like lamination and printing.
GC: This is the first step – we decided to start from the substrate, from existing techniques, but we are working very hard on the matrix. We are currently researching the possibility to have our graphene material already inside the garment – that will be the next step.
What is the plasma super expansion process?
GC: This is a patented process in which raw graphite is exposed to extreme heat, which causes it to expand and form the accordion-like graphite macrostructures of the material we call Basic G+. This then goes through several further production stages, such as air shock treatment and exfoliation, to form other G+ products.
How does graphene enhance the sportswear?
LR: Graphene is a multi-functional material – in many cases you are working and testing multiple properties for your application. In sportswear, we mainly focused on thermal insulation, naturally exploiting the heat that your body is producing during performance.
What is the application of these clothes for hot and cold environments?
GC: The thermally conductive properties of G+ allow the wearer to remain at an ideal temperature in both hot and cold climates. By incorportating G+, the warmth produced by the human body is dispersed in warm climates and preserved and evenly distributed in cold climates. When you are too hot the heat is spread out evenly across the whole body because it is easily conducted through the fabric. This same property also stops the wearer from getting too cold, as the heat generated in these ‘hot spots’ in your body, such as under the armpits, is preserved and spread out across your whole body.
How were you able to apply a quick-drying property to the clothing?
GC: The quick-drying property of the smart fabric is the result of the thermal conductivity of G+, as this facilitates the rapid evaporation of accumulated moisture.
Will we see these textiles being produced on a mass scale?
GC: We are the one of the world's largest producers of graphene. At the moment, we produce around 30 tonnes per year of graphene material, which is a huge amount for this market. As it is a nano-additive in the textiles, you only need a few grammes per jacket, so you can imagine how many jackets can be produced with 30 tonnes of graphene. We have already developed a collection of sportswear with our partners Colmar, and our G+ nanotechnology has been incorporated into ski suits, which were recently worn by the French ski team at the FIS Ski World Cup event in St. Moritz
When is this clothing expected to reach the market?
GC: My feeling is it will arrive onto the market fairly soon. I am getting calls from customers asking where I can buy this sportswear. I think the market is really excited by new technology in sportswear. I predict the golf polo top will make it on the market this summer, with large quantities of winter jackets arriving in 2017.
For more information about Directa Plus, visit www.directa-plus.com