Graphene has been dubbed a “miracle” material, being around 200-times stronger than steel, transparent and able to efficiently conduct heat and electricity.
But finding the best way to use it is actually a tough job, with trial and error needed to find the best products to adapt it to.
Founded 12 years ago, its aim is to design a system to produce graphene in a “sustainable, simple and a scalable way”, which it has now achieved, and adapt it to a wide-range of products.
The company’s graphene products have caught the eye of numerous businesses, having secured a raft of deals across the globe this year.
New deals in textiles
One of the most recent deals Directa Plus has announced is with Oakley and Bioracer, which used the company’s Graphene Plus (G+) to launch a cycling jersey in early July.
The G+ Graphene Aero Jersey was treated with G+, which helps to regulate body temperature, reduce sweat and body odour.
Also in July, Directa Plus revealed that it had secured a second big order for technical clothing incorporating G+ from Alfredo Grassi.
Alfredo Grassi is one of Italy’s largest workwear suppliers and Directa Plus believes it is the largest order yet, anywhere, for graphene-enhanced textiles.
G+ will also be used to treat a range of jeans made by Arvind, one of India’s top textile groups.
Arvind makes six million pairs of jeans every year using 100mln metres of fabric for household name brands such as Levi’s, Tommy Hilfilger, Wrangler and Gant and has established a reputation for innovation.
G+ will be infused into the denim fabric to give the denim effects such as such as “thermal regulation, heat dissipation, energy harvesting, data transmission and no odour”.
Meanwhile, Directa Plus is developing a range of graphene-enhanced luxury accessories as part an exclusive contract with an existing customer worth €130,000.
But the G+ compound has wider applications than textiles.
Partnerships in transport, oil and gas
Directa Plus said in April that it is working with Marangoni –one of Italy’s leading re-tread companies –to produce better performing tyres for commercial buses and lorries.
The company believes the G+ compound will increase grip, durability and fuel efficiency as well as extend the life of a tyre.
In the oil and gas sector, the firm has joined forces with Italian firm Sartec Srl to develop a commercial-scale industrial system using its graphene-based Grafysorber product for treating oil-contaminated produced water.
The agreement follows initial joint research over the last eight months during which extensive tests on the Grafysorber product were successfully carried out.
Since the agreement, the first phase of industrial field testing of Grafysorber has been completed.
The test was to remove petroleum hydrocarbons from the water produced as a by-product from oil and gas wells so that it can be reused.
Romanian group OMV Petrom said the quality of water improved using Grafysorber.
First manufacturer to use Directa’s products
Vittoria was the first manufacturer to use Directa’s products, firstly in a carbon fibre wheel, and then in “intelligent” bicycle tyres.
These stay very hard when rolling, but soft when braking, and were used at the Rio Olympics, where cyclists won four medals using them.
Last December Directa Plus an order to supply 250 kilos of G+ for incorporation into Vittoria's range of graphene-enhanced bicycle tyres and wheels.
Further revenue growth expected in 2018
Directa Plus turned to revenue growth in 2017 with total income rising by more than 50% to €1.23mln, compared to €0.82mln a year earlier.
The underlying loss (LBITDA) for the year narrowed to €3.16mln compared with €3.67mln loss for 2016, primarily due to increased income and lower bad debt expenses.
The company’s decision to focus on fulfilling near-term opportunities in the smart textiles and environmental markets last year paid off with its active customer list more than doubling to 35 from 16 in 2016.
The group expects to generate increased revenues from these active clients in 2018.
In an annual general meeting statement in June, chairman Sir Peter Middleton said: “We have a strong pipeline of opportunities for near-term commercial progress and continue to broaden our portfolio of patents with two granted in 2018 covering our non-toxic flame retardancy composition for the textiles market and our new graphene-based solution for enhancing the performance of tyres, which were awarded by the US and Italian patent offices respectively.”
He added: "With more and more customers preparing to launch products incorporating G+, we remain confident of securing future orders and delivering significant progress in full-year 2018 and beyond,” he told shareholders at the annual meeting."