Virginia Tech is one step closer to a $25,000 grant to study using coal to create graphene.
The GO Virginia Region One Council, a business development and job creation initiative serving several southwest Virginia counties and cities, approved the grant on Oct. 2, The Coalfield Progress, a southwestern Virginia newspaper, reported.
The study would identify current and future markets for graphene, a thin, lightweight and strong material, as well as the regional benefits of using coal in its development. Graphene could be used in manufacturing, batteries and other products. Tech would have a $50,000 budget for the project if it receives the grant.
The statewide GO Virginia board will take a final vote in December and the project must be submitted to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for approval.
Virginia Tech's Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Science has developed an invention disclosure for a method to manufacture graphene from coal and intends to send the technology to EnviraCarbon, a Tennessee-based company working to develop cleaner fuel sources than coal, according to the Progress.
Given the decline in the coal market due to the competitiveness of natural gas and renewable energy sources, experts are seeking alternative uses for coal, which some hope may provide new markets for the fuel.