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Directa Plus making strategic turn, betting on graphene-based intelligent fabrics

by Guido Romeo

After plastics, rubbers and rubber compounds for tires and cleaning systems, the latest challenge from Directa Plus is graphene-based intelligent fabrics. The firm, headquartered near Como and created on the basis of an intuition by Giulio Cesareo, is now listed on the London Stock Exchange. One of the leading companies in Europe in the integration of nanotechnologies in the industrial world, it has just announced two strategic changes in its growth plan, with a total investment of €1.5 million.

“The first novelty is within the company and consists of ADA, our Advanced Development Area, to be launched late this month in the Graphene Workshops of Lomazzo, with new plants entirely devoted to developing materials for our customers,” says Cesareo, 71, founder and CEO.

The trouble with Italian manufacturers, often small or tiny in size, employing less than ten workers, is finding the internal resources and skills to develop new products. For this reason, Directa Plus has equipped itself to provide turnkey solutions.

The second novelty, on the other hand, is external and its name is DTS, Directa Textile Solutions.

“This is actually an expansion of the company that led us to purchase – for €0.4 million – a startup business specializing in the production of membranes and the development of two solutions, Grafiterm and Grafishield, two types of membranes characterized by thermal and electrical conductivity, non-reflective to infrared rays,” said Cesareo. “The impact of this new technology is similar, if not greater, than the introduction of goretex thirty years ago.”

Right now, the company’s looking to the technical sportswear market (a graphene-based Colmar ski outfit already exists) as well as workwear and the military sector, considering nanotechnologies’ potential contribution in terms of safety.

“Thanks to DTS – Cesareo continued – we aim to develop membranes and fabrics that can directly enter the production chain of clothing companies without creating impediments, just as we did, successfully, with tires under such brands as Vittoria.”

Further on, there are industries like the energy sector, where developing lithium and graphene batteries is already on the agenda of giants like Solvay and Renault, or the aerospace industry. “For the moment, we are focusing on textile, clothing manufacturers, reinforced plastics and the green sector because the barrier to entry is lower – Cesareo said –. We shall perfect alliances and, perhaps, licensing formats to approach the more complex industries further on.”

The holy grail and richest market for graphene, at any rate, is still IT, considering the high performance a graphene-based chip could ensure. On this front though, there’s still a lot of research to be carried out before stable and viable structures can be attained, suitable for use in mass products. In the meantime, the feather in the cap for Directa Plus is the sustainability and security of its particles.

“Our nanosheets’ thickness often exceeds ten atoms, but their surface is ample, up to five micrometers – Rizzi pointed out –. This ensures outstanding nanostructural characteristics, while also making them harmless for man, not even causing problems on an epidermal and dermal level in their raw state.”