London-based adventure-wear maker Vollebak is known for technical innovation. Its latest accomplishment: Creating a jacket out of the so-called “miracle material” graphene. This thin, strong
and versatile form of graphite can conduct heat and electricity —properties that could revolutionise everything from aerospace to medicine. “Graphene remains extremely difficult to work with, incredibly expensive to produce and very hard to make in large quantities,” says Vollebak Co-founder Steve Tidball. “Even two years ago this jacket would have been impossible to make.”
FULL MINERAL JACKET
Vollebak worked with a team of outside scientists to turn raw graphite into stacks of graphene that were blended with polyurethane to create a membrane. That was then bonded to nylon to form the jacket’s two-sided material. The company laser-cut the reversible panels and glued them together to use as much of the costly fabric as possible.
Thanks to its hexagonal molecular structure, graphene can conduct heat in unusual ways. Vollebak says the jacket will pull heat from your body to equalise your temperature and work like a radiator, storing warmth from other sources. The material halts bacteria buildup and disperses humidity.
A WEARABLE CHARGING STATION
The jacket, which Vollebak considers a prototype, plays down graphene’s natural ability to conduct electricity, but Vollebak hopes tinkerers will find ways to rework it to, for example, charge a phone simply by placing it in the pocket. The company hopes to release a souped-up version of the jacket one day.
OTHER GRAPHENE-FUELLED INNOVATIONS
Indestructible wheels: Wheelchair maker Küschall is using graphene to make a chair that’s 30% lighter and 20% tougher than classic carbon ones.
Lighter Wings: University of Central Lancashire engineers made a prototype of a plane covered in graphene to reduce its weight.
Better Batteries: Graphene batteries could decrease charging time for electric vehicles from hours to just five minutes.