What is a graphene coating
Written by: Vinnie van Rooij
The graphene coating is fairly new on the market for the detailing industry, instead of focussing on ingredients like SiO2 or other polymers, the main ingredient is graphene. Graphene is a form of carbon, which is known to be very durable and strong under the right circumstances.
What is graphene
Graphene, also known under the name graphite, is a single sheet of graphite. The microscopic surface graphene has an incredibly high surface area and is formed out of many hexagonal rings that or connected to each other. The total structure is known to be very strong and durable. Under the right circumstances it can retain a flexible property while still resisting large forces. Due to its very tightly packed carbon atoms, it is very stabile and can be used on many different forms. One of the popular uses is to give strength to materials it is applied to. Carbon fiber can be considered an example of this. As a nano-layer it is small enough to be invisible, and versatile enough to be applied to almost any material/surface. Due to its predictable surface formation, it can be repaired fairly easily. The self-repariring or self-healing property is mostly thanks to the addition of exposure of carbon-containing molecules, such as hydrocarbons (many waxes, such as parrafin wax are hydrocarbons). This makes it very easy to maintain the coating. Wear and tear could (in theory) be easily solved by applied a hydrocarbon-rich product that allows the nano-structure to heal and correct itself. This property has not yet been tested throughly enough in the world of detailing to conclusively say if the adaptations in the automotive industry support this behavior. There is still a risk that the process of turning it into a coating makes it lose certain properties.
Application of a graphene coating
The products that are currently offered on the market are applied in the same way as SiO2 coatings are applied. The surface needs to be prepped properly and cleaned throughly. Any contamination on the surface can cause the coating to not adhere properly to the surface. Preparation of the surface is sually key to the performance of the product itself.
Downside of graphene coatings
The use of graphene in coatings is fairly new, and is still a subject that needs further development, testing and real life experience. However, due to the properties that graphene is known for, it is possible to predict some downsides of the use of this new material. These include the high cost, large difference in performance due to different concentrations of the material, unknown effects from contamination on the surface during application and the relationship between durable and hardness.
Because of the new developments, the graphene coatings are often more expensive then regular coatings. Because the subject is getting more popular, there is an increased risk of fake-graphene coating being released on the market. Other manufacturers might also choose a recipe with a lower concentration of graphene, which might cause the product to perform less well then others with a higher concentration. With SiO2 coatings, it a popular mis-belief to think that the hardest coatings are the most durable ones. This is not true, because hardness often leads to less flexible and there fore more prone to microscopic chipping and breaking of the nano-surface. Graphene has the ability to be extremely strong yet flexible, which might lead to a lower level of hardness, even though the material is much more durable then regular (non-graphene) coatings. Seeing as the H-scale of hardness is often used within marketing to sell a product, this lower hardness might cause the graphene coating to loose popularity.
Main difference between graphene and SiO2 coating
Because the short period in which the graphene coating has been offered, it is difficult to say how the difference between both coating compare, mostly because it is not yet clear how the coating performs when certain ingredients are added in different quantities. It is also yet unclear how different conditions play a role in its performance. Nonetheless, it is possible to predict how some properties should compare with the SiO2 coatings.
|SiO2 coating||Graphene coating|
|Hardness||Possibly harder then Graphene||Probably less hard then SiO2|
|Application||Should be the same||Should be the same|
|Durability if not maintained||Good, should last a year||Very good, could last a few years|
|Durability if well maintained||Good, should last a few years||Very good, might last many years|
|Chemical resistance||Only suffers from very low pH values||Should be able to resist most (to all) chemicals|
|(self) Healing||Very little to none||Reasonably easy with the proper products|
|Cost||Acceptable||Fairly high at the time of writing|
|Ease of use||Should be the same||Should be the same|
|Filling in imperfections||Should be the same||Should be the same|
|Versatility||Reasonable (trims, glass, paint etc)||Currently only paintwork|
|Effect of applying wax or sealant on top||Not needed, but possible||Not needed, but could be needed to activate the self healing|
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