Shengquan betting big on biomass graphene industry

By Lyu Chang in Beijing and Zhao Ruixue in Jinan| (China Daily)| Updated : 2018-05-14

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Editor's note: In this ongoing series on the birth and growth of privately owned Chinese companies that are redefining innovation, China Daily profiles Jinan Shengquan Group, a bioengineering company which is betting big on a new biomass-graphene material.

Jinan Shengquan Group, a bioengineering company, is betting big on a new biomass-graphene material that may trigger a trillion-dollar industry.

The Jinan-based company developed a kind of material known as biomass graphene, extracted from straw and corn cob and claims it can be used for the far-infrared therapy, which some reports said can stimulate blood circulation and oxygenate the body's cells.

A study by Fatma Vatansever and Michael Hamblin, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, concluded: "If it can be proved that non-heating far-infrared has real and significant biological effects, then the future applications are wide-ranging ... there is a large potential market in lifestyle-enhancing applications."

Graphene, a single layer of carbononly one atom thick, is remarkably strong for its very low weight - 100 times stronger than steel - and it conducts heat and electricity with great efficiency. But, the so-called biomass graphene is a multilayer carbon.

Tang Yilin, chairman of the board of the biochemical company, said that though the material is 10 times or even 30 times thicker than graphene, what really matters is it benefits human's health and yields more added value than a normal cotton product.

A normal pair of socks costs generally 10 yuan ($1.5) to 50 yuan, but when they are added with biomass graphene, the price will rise to 200 yuan to 300 yuan. He said this material can be used in many industries, including clothing, internal decoration for vehicles and plastic surgery treatment materials.

"We are now producing more than 100 kinds of products such as pillows and underwear with the material of fiber graphene," Tang said. "The smart material can keep us warm and also has anti-virus and anti-bacterial features, antistatic capability, and protection from ultraviolet radiation."

Tang said compared with the traditional way of making graphene, the new material made from crops is generally cost-efficient.

The company now has a production line that can produce 100 metric tons of biomass graphene a year. A new production line with annual capacity of 1,000tons is under design to meet the increasing demand for biomass graphene.

Last year, Yao Mu, an academician from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and a team of experts examined and approved the "Healfiber" developed by Shengquan. "The technology is very advanced by many existing benchmarks, and it is internationally recognized," he said.

Set up in 1979, Shengquan started to develop biomass graphene several years ago, as it is shifting from the businesses of making furan resin and phenolic material, which have seen a large drop in sales amid falling prices and overcapacity.