Chinese company to manufacture graphene cables based on UNSW tech

Electric wire on the pole, power

A joint venture between the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Chinese high-voltage cable manufacturer, Hangzhou ­Cable Co., will help roll out large-scale manufacturing of graphene power cables, which promise to cut electricity costs and improve grid transmission.

The collaboration moved into its second phase after the two parties formalised an agreement for the  second stage of development at UNSW’s Torch Innovation Week, a showcase of Australian and Chinese partnerships.

The technology, which was invented by a UNSW research team led by materials scientist Professor Sean Li.

Professor Li said the ultimate goal of the project in phase two is to continue optimising fabrication parameters to increase China’s grid transmission efficiency by five per cent.

“The technology transfers the low-cost raw materials, such as graphite, into graphene which forms copper/graphene composite conductors. This not only increases the electrical conductivity but also reduces the use of copper which means it more economical and efficient.”

He said the successful commercialisation and application of the UNSW technology could save about 275 terawatt hours of power a year across China alone – equivalent to Australia’s entire annual energy consumption.

The joint venture between UNSW Sydney and Hangzhou ­Cables received an additional $3 million funding boost that will transfer laboratory research results into the industrial production of a graphene cable pilot line located in Hangzhou.

An initial 10-metre prototype of the cable technology, developed at the Kensington campus over the past two years, showed that graphene, a form of carbon, can be used to stop electricity leakage that happens with conventional power cable and grids, which could deliver significant savings in electricity and emissions.

The project is a flagship collaboration of the Torch Innovation Precinct at UNSW – an unprecedented partnership between UNSW-led research teams and Chinese businesses and industries with the capital and market access needed to translate Australian research into high-impact new products, processes and services.

Professor Brian Boyle, UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Enterprise, announced that according to the test results of the National Measurement Institute (NMI), graphene-copper composite wire developed in phase one of the project reduced resistivity by 3.8 per cent, compared with that of the copper wire within the same area.

The Hangzhou ­Cables project was the first to be unveiled as part of the Torch Precinct in 2016.

“Signing the second phase of this project demonstrates the economic and sustainable impacts our research efforts and global achievements with HCCL in Hangzhou are making,” said Professor Boyle.

“This is an example of outstanding and highly relevant research crossing international borders. By accelerating our research efforts in Sydney and scaling them up through HCCL in China and then out to other international markets, we’ve established a model for many more Australian-Chinese collaborations that will have a global impact.”

Mr Jingye Cheng, Chinese Ambassador to Australia, and Dr James Ge, Vice-President of Fuchunjiang Group, the parent company of Hangzhou Cables, attended the signing ceremony at UNSW.