Vorbeck Materials, a company founded with technology licensed from Princeton, is leading the way in the manufacture and applications of graphene, a carbon-based nanomaterial. A single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern, graphene possesses unique electronic properties, thermal conductivity and strength. The process for mass manufacturing graphene was developed at Princeton by Robert Prud’homme and Ilhan Aksay, professors of chemical and biological engineering. Vorbeck’s graphene-based conductive ink, Vor-ink™, can already be found in consumer packaging as theft control at major retail outlets. Graphene-based electronic circuits, printed directly on the package, trigger an alarm if the merchandise is opened or disturbed. Other applications for graphene include sensors for detecting biological agents, diabetic test readout strips, and novel airplane and aerospace materials. Vorbeck is also actively collaborating with other companies to create high-strength composites.
In February, Vorbeck Materials, in partnership with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Ilhan Aksay’s group at Princeton, won the Department of Energy’s “America’s next Top Energy Innovator Challenge” for its development of graphene-based battery electrodes. In June, PNNL —with Vorbeck and Princeton recognized as co-developers — received the R&D 100 Award, given by R&D Magazine to the top 100 scientific and technological advances of the year. Vorbeck’s president, John Lettow ’95, worked on his senior thesis in chemical engineering with Aksay. “Princeton gives great support for intellectual property,” Lettow said. “In one year, we took this technology and went from small production to large-scale factory production.”