Graphene was discovered relatively recently. While everyone agrees on its incredible properties and the possibilities it brings to industry in particular, more and more studies are also aiming to assess graphene’s toxicity on human health.

This issue is attracting growing interest, including from the general public, particularly since the health crisis of 2020-2021, when graphene-based surgical masks were introduced and then withdrawn from the market in view of their potential health risk.

In this article, Carbon Waters presents the results of several studies into the safety of graphene, carried out by:

  • A multidisciplinary team from the Graphene Flagship (the Health and Environment Work Package) and independent partners
  • The National University of Singapore
  • The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Graphene Council
  • The Strasbourg Laboratory – CNRS Immunology

There is not one but many graphenes​

First of all, it’s important to mention that the term “graphene” is generally used to describe all 2D nano-carbon materials. However, this is a family of materials whose components differ in thickness (number of layers), qualitystability and purity.

This family also includes more or less oxidized graphenes such as graphene oxides (GO) and reduced graphene oxides (rGO). These differences are a direct consequence of the production process.

What’s more, they are available in a variety of forms: in powderpre-dispersed in liquid products, in paste form, as a masterbatch or as a film on a metal plate, and so on.

Source: the Graphene Flaghsip

Most of the above-mentioned studies have been carried out on graphene oxide (GO), via in vitro and in vivo modeling and testing.

Studies on the cytotoxicity of graphene:
the main results​

Results differ from one graphene to another,
depending on its quality​

The existence of different forms of graphene has led to different results regarding its safety. Indeed, from one study to the next, scientists have based their research on one type of graphene or another.

Take, for example, the study by the University of Singapore (Cytotoxicity survey of commercial graphene materials from worldwide, 2022) carried out on 36 types of graphene available on the market.

Antonio H. Castro Neto points out that “the toxicity of graphene, besides its dose, is not due to graphene itself but to the impurities that are a sub-product of graphene’s industrial processing”.

He adds: “Our study suggests that over 35% of the graphene products contain highly defective graphene; we observed the presence of organic and/or inorganic impurities in almost all the samples. Our results prompt the conclusion that a product’s cytotoxicity cannot be related to any characteristic of graphene alone, but it is determined by the contaminants present.”

Exposure level and concentration also play
a role in graphene toxicity​

Studies show that the exposure factor (form, duration, quantity) has a direct impact on graphene’s health risks.

For the Royal Society of Chemistry (RCS) and the Graphene Councilif graphene is integrated within a matrix, it presents no greater health and safety risk than any other material. According to the RCS, “once a nanomaterial (including graphene) has been incorporated into a product, it is virtually impossible to liberate the graphene particles from the host material”.

Graphene is not toxic at all when incorporated into a matrix
More and more materials are being enhanced with graphene, such as batteries, for its incredible properties.

Returning to surgical masks, a test carried out by the Canadian laboratory NanoSafe on ZenGuard brand equipment demonstrated that graphene remained within the masks during inhalation. These results corroborate the claims made by the Graphene Council and the RCS.

These assertions are also in line with the Graphene Flagship study, whose teams modeled the effects of exposure to graphene-laden composites on the lungs. They found that continuous exposure to graphene over long periods did not induce a significant immune response. This implies that the graphene present in these composites would have no negative impact on health, even in the event of long-term exposure.

According to their research (Safety Assessment of Graphene-Based Materials: Focus on Human Health and the Environment, 2018), inhalation and epidermal absorption appear to be the most likely means of unintentional exposure, particularly in the working environment when handling graphene-based products. In the form of volatile powders  (nanopowders), graphene presents a higher inhalation risk.

Studies have also been carried out on the effect of graphene alone, i.e. not incorporated into a matrix. An independent laboratory at the University of Strasbourg (Degradation of Single-Layer and Few-Layer Graphene by Neutrophil Myeloperoxidase, 2018) demonstrated via in vitro tests that, in the event of free graphene particles being inhaled or absorbed, certain human cells (lymphocytes, present in the immune system) naturally destroyed the graphene.

The graphene used in this study is a non-oxidized graphene with a low number of layers (FLG).

Graphene optimizes material properties

Graphene products and the end of the life cycle:
is there a health risk?​

In addition to the risks associated with handling or using a graphene-containing product, we also need to consider the risks associated with its end-of-life. The main studies on the subject have modeled the end-of-life cycle of a graphene-doped material following abrasion.

According to the multidisciplinary Graphene Flagship team and its partners (Hazard assessment of abraded thermoplastic composites reinforced with reduced graphene oxide2022) including the Swiss laboratory EMPA, “graphene-based particles released from polymer composites after abrasion induce negligible health effects. The present findings show a negligible impact of rGO-reinforced PA6 composites on all the models tested, suggesting a likely low risk to human health at acute exposure conditions.”

Carbon Waters is also conducting an analysis of abrasion and fire degradation residues of an epoxy polymer enriched with Graph’Up, its range of performance additives, as part of the European Macramé project. Conducted with the EMPA laboratory and other project partners, this study will assess the cytotoxicity and ecotoxicity of Carbon Waters’ graphene-based performance additives. Results will be announced in the coming months.

What can we learn from studies on the safety of graphene?​

While graphene has demonstrated its incredible properties over the years, it is essential to look at the health risks it may pose.

The various studies carried out on the subject all agree that the type of graphene, its quality, the degree of concentration and the level of exposure have different impacts. However, they show that graphene presents only a low risk under normal conditions of handling and exposure. This risk is lower if graphene is integrated within another material or object, unlike graphene in powder form, which, due to its high volatility, increases the likelihood of inhalation.

At a time when many substances are under regulatory scrutiny as being toxicgraphene-based additives are excellent candidates for sustainable substitution.

Carbon Waters, a company specializing in the production of FLG (Few-Layer Graphene) performance additives, offers pre-dispersed solutions, with no risk of inhalation during handling.

More on our applications

Patrick Maestro, a former Scientific Director at Solvay, has been involved in the Carbon Waters adventure for several years. Thanks to his extensive experience and knowledge of the chemical sector, and in particular polymers and composites, he is now helping the company to grow from strength to strength. Interview with a man passionate about chemistry and the Bordeaux region.

Is it true that your background is 100% Bordeaux?

Patrick Maestro: That’s true in terms of training. I studied at the University of Bordeaux in the 1970s and graduated with a PhD, after  spending five years at the Laboratoire de Chimie du Solide (now the ICMCB), where I was able to combine training in physics and chemistry. At the end of my studies, I was hired by Rhône-Poulenc, the largest chemical and pharmaceutical group in France at the time, which had subsidized my thesis. I moved to their Aubervilliers Research Center, and for me it was the big move north! There, I worked for twenty years in a research laboratory.

I came back to the Bordeaux region twenty years ago because it’s my heartland! There, as Rhodia’s scientific director I created the Laboratoire du Futur, and developed many interactions with local academic laboratories, including the CRPP, which led me to interact with Carbon Waters right from the start. Personally, I settled in Lacanau, in the middle of the forest and close to the water. And today I’m enjoying it to the full, having retired a few months ago. Only the birds that sometimes enter through the bay window in the living room disturb this tranquillity (laughs).

At Rhône-Poulenc, you moved from laboratory research to Scientific Management?

PM: Yes, I became Scientific Director  at Rhodia when Rhône-Poulenc  split into three (Rhodia for the chemicals branch, Bayer for Agrochemicals, and Aventis (now Sanofi) for the pharmaceuticals branch). Finally, Solvay bought Rhodia in 2011, and I became Solvay’s Scientific Director.

It’s a position I’ve held for almost twenty years, developing the scientific and technological skills needed to develop useful products and solutions for our customers. This involved setting up numerous partnerships at all levels. I established partnerships with the academic world, including the CNRS and equivalent bodies around the world, with leading foreign scientists, and also with start-ups. About start-ups, I was Solvay’s scientific guarantor for its Ventures activity,  assessing the technical validity of projects in chemistry-related start-ups.

How do you look back on your career now that you’ve retired?

PM: I’ve always seen my work as a privilege and a source of fun, because things were always changing. I never imagined I would be exposed to  so many different scientific areas,  and meet so many extraordinary and interesting people. I learnt a lot from all these exchanges. That’s the great thing about being a researcher: you’re always looking for ways to get off the beaten track. That’s why I didn’t want to cut back completely, even after retirement, and take up gardening or DIY, for example – too risky for me and my relatives … (laughs).

Today, I’m continuing to support a number of start-ups, I’m Secretary General of EuroCase, an association of European technology academies, and I’ve been President of Invest in Bordeaux for a few weeks now. In short, I don’t have time to get bored, and that’s what I like. 

What is your history with Carbon Waters?

PM: During all my career, I have had very strong and  good relations with the CNRS. I was a member of the prematurity committee, in which we  validated the support to projects of research laboratories wishing to develop their idea towards potential industrialization, after filing a patent, by transferring a license or creating a start-up.

I thus attended the presentation of Carlos Drummond and Alain Pénicaud‘s project for their aqueous graphene dispersions. The committee approved the project and I became its referent.

What did you personally think of the project?

PM: I thought it was a remarkable idea! In my opinion, it had real potential, but it needed to be supported in its industrial reality. On the one hand, in terms of process, because the vision was too laboratory-oriented, not industrial enough. Today, Raymond Michel is working with Carbon Waters on this project. On the other hand, we needed to focus on the possible sectors and fields of application for Carbon Waters’ graphene-based additives, and that’s where my area of expertise lies.

Another point I’d like to stress is that if the Carbon Waters project has worked well, I think it’s to a significant
extent  because Alain and Carlos have been able to let the start-up develop without systematically intervening in every decision. It’s often difficult for the scientists behind a project to know how to detach themselves from it. This was not a problem  here.

What do you do to help Carbon Waters today?

PM: I’m currently a member of Carbon Waters’ Scientific Advisory Board. I provide scientific and technological support, particularly for applications in polymers and composites. I also help the company by putting their people in touch with other companies through my network of contacts.

You are also a guest at INFINIMAT, can you tell us more about that?

PM: Yes, I’ll be speaking at INFINIMAT 2023, hosting a conference on the subject of “The polymers & composites market: what opportunities for graphene?”. The idea will be to present all the advantages of Carbon Waters’ graphene-based formulations in these materials to the industrialists present. I’ll also discuss the challenges they address (environmental, economic, regulatory, etc.), drawing on the main results obtained in the laboratory. For example, graphene has excellent anticorrosion and mechanical reinforcement properties for polymers

And what do you wish for Carbon Waters in the future? 

PM: I see Carbon Waters as THE graphene formulation company, thanks to its unique technology and products.

Today, the company is at a crossroads. It’s starting to gain recognition, win awards… This is the moment when it needs to be ready for industrialization. I’m not worried about customer demand, because the products that come out of the laboratory are high-performance, but now the challenge is to produce these dispersions on the scale of tons, always with the same quality. I wish Carbon Waters every success in meeting its specifications and deadlines, for it is truly in the key phase of its development. Of course, they can always count on my support.

A businessman with a wealth of experience, a company director, a member of the Paris Business Angels network and a member of the Carbon Waters strategy committee… Who is Luc Varigas and what is his relationship with Carbon Waters? Interview. 

You’ve had a long career, most of which has been spent abroad. Can you tell us why?

Luc Varigas: I had a double education, both scientific at Chimie de Paris and in business in the ESSEC business school. After I graduated, I quickly left France in 2002 for a professional career abroad. After moving to Singapore (where my youngest son was born) and Switzerland, I worked in Belgium, where I still am today.

This taste for living abroad has always been reflected in my professional experiences. I love being in contact with multicultural teams and working on an international level, it’s very enriching both professionally and personally!

And this diversity is also reflected in the different positions you’ve held. 

LV: Yes, it’s true that in the course of my career I’ve been able to evolve in several functions and business sectors. First of all, I  started out in finance, until Regional (Asia) and Global Chief Financial Officer (CFO), then I moved into general management and supervised various corporate functions. My specialty among others is implementing strategy and helping companies restructure, in terms of organization, business models and team change management. I have also developed competencies in business development, for instance in the context of chemical parks infrastructures.

These roles have given me the desire to offer my expertise to entrepreneurs with innovative ideas who lack the resources and knowledge to develop them into businesses. That’s why I set up Altarence with a partner in 2014. Our aim is to identify, at a very early stage, projects with high technological potential and breakthrough innovation and turn them into deeptechs.

The very definition of Carbon Waters.

LV: That’s what it is. But I didn’t find out about Carbon Waters directly through Altarence. It was through the Paris Business Angels (BPA) network, of which I’ve been a member for a year. PBA is an  organization gathering private investors (“Business Angels”) that validates and supports already more structured projects looking for financing to boost their development.

How did PBA put you in touch with Carbon Water?

LV: When I joined the PBA network, the Carbon Waters file was coming in for appraisal. I had the opportunity to attend a pitch by Alban Chesneau, the CEO of Carbon Waters, who immediately convinced me. I saw the potential of the company’s graphene-based products, which have a wide range of applications in industry and chemistry. So, I volunteered to be part of the instruction team. In September 2022, we presented our recommendations to the whole of PBA, and the network was also convinced by the project, in particular thanks to Alban and Nicolas Castet, COO of Carbon Waters, who removed any doubts.

What does the PBA network bring to Carbon Waters today? And how are you contributing in your own way?

LV: PBA has invested €300,000 in the project, a substantial sum, part of the end 2022 funding, which will be used to build a pilot production plant as well as for the commercial development of a range of graphene-based products for paints and coatings.

Given my knowledge of the chemicals sector, I became the PBA referent  and joined the Carbon Waters strategic committee at the same time. I was also able to visit their premises in December 2022 and talk to a large part of the team, people who, despite being fairly young, have already  gained a lot of experience, which is a real strength for Carbon Waters.

What is your role on the strategic committee?

LV: I take part in decision-making on short-, medium- and long-term strategic directions, as well as on the major financial investments facing the company. We are also committed to studying all existing funding possibilities and are currently preparing the future Series A.

In addition, I contribute my expertise to the Business & Marketing Expert Committee to advise management on the implementation of strategic marketing (segmentation, targeting, positioning) for the company. For example, we have identified opportunities for Carbon Waters additives in the energy and hydrogen sectors. So, we’re working on a strategy to address these new markets. I’m also taking advantage of my extensive network in the chemical industry, particularly in Belgium, to put Carbon Waters in touch with organizations so that they can assess the possibility of collaborating on projects.

You spoke earlier about the Carbon Waters team, why do you think it is a strength?

LV: Throughout my career and my experiences, I’ve crossed paths with many people and discovered many innovative start-up projects. But when I met the Carbon Waters team for the first time, I was genuinely impressed by the quality of the discussions I was able to have with each person individually, and above all by the motivation and ingenuity shown by everyone. For me, the role of the team is fundamental in supporting a company’s progress, provided that the company also offers its team good prospects in return, which is the case today at Carbon Waters.

Would you have any final words to add in conclusion?

LV: I’m 100% convinced by Carbon Waters’ technology and products, as well as the strength of its team, and I want to continue to be involved with the company to accelerate its development and get its technology into different markets, with priority to those that offer the most value. I also want to help Carbon Waters increase its impact, its recognition, by advancing its technology and its team, in the broadest sense.

The journey will certainly be bumpy and unpredictable but the team will, I am sure, make the difference to find out the right options. Supporting all of them in  a business project with so much potential makes me feel happy and proud to be part of the Carbon Waters adventure!

The world’s graphene experts gathered in Manchester last June for the 13th Graphene Conference, one of the world’s leading events on graphene and 2D materials.

Dr. Rym Soltani, Process Manager at Carbon Waters, reports on this event, during which she exchanged views with numerous researchers and industrialists and presented Carbon Waters, its objectives and its most relevant industrial applications.

A must-attend event for the graphene community

From June 27 to 30, several hundred people attended the 2023 Graphene Conference, an event in which Carbon Waters has been participating since 2019.

“This year, the focus was on fundamental topics in 2D materials chemistry (theory and simulation, synthesis techniques, advanced characterization and properties),” says Rym Soltani.

“By way of example, the two lectures given by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, the scientists who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for their groundbreaking work on graphene, drew a massive crowd! I also saw a lot of interest in applicative topics on 2D materials for applications in electronics, energy and photonics-optoelectronics-plasmonics.”

Spotlight on Carbon Waters and its graphene-based performance additives

During the two-day Industrial Forum, Rym Soltani had the honor of leading a conference on the subject of “Liquid graphene dispersions: formulation of a multipurpose additive“.

I presented Carbon Waters, our unique process for producing graphene by chemical-mechanical exfoliation, and its advantages. The key is to produce stable, suspended graphene in liquid form, rather than in powder form. The environmental impact is therefore limited.

I also emphasized the various possible applications in industry, presenting a few examples of our achievements and the results obtained. Finally, I was able to outline Carbon Waters’ short, medium, and long-term objectives, including the scaling-up of our production capacitieswhich will involve setting up our first industrial pilot unit.”

The conference attracted a great deal of interest from visitors, giving rise to a lively exchange of views on the quality of Carbon Waters products, the advantages of its process and industrial applications.

Promising meetings for the future

“Thanks to this international event, which brought together graphene specialists from all over the world, we were able to raise Carbon Waters’ visibility,” says Carbon Waters’ Process Manager. Whether through our conference, the poster sessions or the workshops, lunches and dinners, this edition was very rich in exchanges with researchers and industrialists. It enabled us to expand our network of contacts, with potential collaborations to come!”

Carlos Drummond, Director of Research at the Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal (CRPP) for 20 years, is one of the founders of the Carbon Waters project. In this interview, he talks about his background and what led him to launch the Carbon Waters adventure.

You have been Director of Research at the CRPP (a CNRS, French National Centre for Scientific Research entity) for 20 years? 

Carlos Drummond: That’s right, I am of Venezuelan origin and arrived in France 20 years ago, in 2003, at the CNRS. After my studies in Venezuela, I did my thesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and then I worked for a few years in Research & Development at Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) before being recruited at the CNRS (more precisely at the Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal) in Pessac.

Why did you choose to go into academic research?

CD: Industrial research and academic research are very distinct. In industry, the primary goal of research is to produce a marketable product, otherwise it is difficult for the company to survive. There is rarely time to go deeper into the subjects to get a more complete understanding of the systems. So it’s hard for me to project myself and stay motivated. That’s why I wanted to explore the path of academic research. What I like is to have more time to think about a project, to be able to do more experiments. As Director of Research at the CRPP, I supervise doctoral students and I put my scientific knowledge at their service. It is a role which corresponds to me much better and in which I blossom fully.

What is your research work at the CRPP?

CD: I work on measuring the interaction forces between two objects (for example, friction forces), in order to determine where they come from. If we take the example of graphene, we know that there is an interaction between two sheets. If we understand the origin of these interactions, we can develop strategies to control them, to avoid that they aggregate in a solvent, so that the whole remains homogeneous.

You are at the origin of the Carbon Waters project… 

CD: Initially, in 2007, it was with Alain Pénicaud, also a Research Director at CRPP, that we had the idea of producing graphene, a material that had just been discovered at the time. Around 2014-2015, we understood that the project had real prospects and that it was necessary to make it a reality by becoming a company. The CNRS accompanied us in this “premature” phase, in order to go beyond the stage of a vial of a few milliliters. However, we quickly realized that entrepreneurship is a profession in its own right, requiring 100% investment and specific skills. But Alain and I had no intention of giving up our exciting work as Research Directors…

And that’s when you crossed paths with Alban Chesneau… 

CD: Exactly, our paths, or rather those of Alain and Alban, crossed at just the right time. Alban had a very clear vision of how to go from a lab project to a real company. He immediately understood the potential of this entrepreneurial project. He graciously helped us by giving us a lot of advice and even decided after a while to leave his job, a well-placed one at that, to fully invest himself in the Carbon Waters project. He is an extraordinary person! Without him, Carbon Waters would never have seen the light of day.

How do you feel about how far Carbon Waters has come since its beginnings?

CD: I’m amazed at how fast Carbon Waters has grown and continues to grow. Nearly 95% of start-ups don’t survive more than two years. To get past that point is quite a feat. Carbon Waters has been able to adapt to its environment and, above all, to be a forerunner in the fields of application of its graphene-based performance additives, by addressing markets with real needs in the areas of decarbonization and material durability, for example. At the beginning, these are subjects that Alain and I had not even thought about. Every time I visit Carbon Waters’ offices, I discover new improvements or new avenues to explore. It’s a young, dynamic, innovative company that doesn’t rest on its laurels.

And today, are you still connected with Carbon Waters? 

CD: Of course, I am one of the shareholders of Carbon Waters and I also provide scientific support to the company. For example, I may be asked to advise the team on blocking issues or help them solve certain problems. I am very happy to be part of Carbon Waters and hope to continue this great adventure in the years to come.

Mahbub Morshed has joined Carbon Waters a few months ago as Manufacturing and Maintenance Director. Living in France for eight years now, this young science enthusiast already has significant experience in this domain. Let’s learn more about him and what he does everyday at Carbon Waters.

You started your professional path in Bangladesh, the country you were born in?

Mahbub Morshed: That’s right. I completed my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and polymer science in 2009. Afterwards, I have worked there for three years at Nestlé as a plant engineer.

Your studies have made you travel a lot, especially in Europe?

MM: With a great passion in science and in chemical process engineering, I moved to Europe in 2012 with the Erasmus mundus scholarship for my master’s degree in Membrane Engineering (which is a special program on molecular separation technologies). Thanks to this program, I have experienced studying in different European universities (France, Czech Republic, Spain and the Netherlands) and gained competences on material science (at Université de Montpellier, France), simulation & modelling (at University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague, Czech Republic), nanoscience & nanotechnologies (at Institute of Nanoscience of Aragon, Zaragoza, Spain) and nanoparticles separation (at Universiteit Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands).

Then you decided to stay in France…

MM: In continuation to this study, I followed my PhD program in France from 2015 to 2019 at ENSIC (École Nationale Supérieure des Industries Chimiques), LRGP (Laboratoire de Recherche en Génie des Procédés) which is part of CNRS at the Université de Lorraine in Nancy. Thanks to my PhD, I gained an extensive experience of working on process, products, and molecular engineering with a special focus on nano-catalysts separation from organic solvents by membrane technologies. I really appreciated my experience there and especially living in this beautiful country that is France. That’s why after my PhD I decided to stay in the country and then worked for two years at Sensient Technologies, a leading global manufacturer of colors, flavors, and other specialty ingredients, as a Process Developer. This experience helped me achieving necessary skills for process scale-up, industrial production and maintenance.

And now Carbon Waters…

MM: I find the work of producing graphene nanomaterials is fascinating, I have always wanted a career in this domain. So, when I saw this opportunity at Carbon Waters, I couldn’t let it pass by! Here, the novelty of technologies and aspects of smart material fabrication attracts me the most. The journey to create new generation materials which are environment friendly and replacing toxic ones are captivating. I feel happy and proud to be a part of the activities of Carbon Waters! I see the company’s potential and want to be part of its development. Now is the perfect time to take Carbon Waters to the next level and make it the leader of graphene-based performance additives. Here every single day counts; life in Carbon Waters (and in Bordeaux!) is exciting…

Could you tell us a bit more about your job of Manufacturing and Maintenance Director?

MM: My day-to-day activities include various missions. On the one hand, I’m in charge of managing production and the production team. I make sure we achieve production target to meet both internal and external demand, as well as leading continuous process improvement & innovations. On the other hand, I also work on scaling-up present laboratory capacity to industrial production, which includes pilot-plant design and execution but also ensuring safety in both lab and industrial scale production. Last, but not least, I also ensure process maintenance, quality control in every step of production to deliver final products with defined quality standard.

It seems like a lot of work!

MM: It’s true I have no time to get bored, but I enjoy my job and being part of Carbon Waters. Like I said, I’m really fascinated about graphene and all the perspectives this material can bring. Moreover, I feel very lucky to work in a positive and solution-oriented company. Here, everyone can count on each other. They easily communicate and are enthusiast to test and implement new things. It’s a very supportive and collaborative team with which it is a real pleasure to work every day: any professional challenge at Carbon Waters doesn’t stay as a challenge for a long time. Together, we always find solutions and move forward towards a positive future. Thanks to this great team spirit I can say working every day at Carbon Waters is a joyful expression of life!

What could you tell us on a more personal note?

MM: In my free time, I enjoy reading, especially everything related to philosophy, yoga, positivity… To give you an idea, I’m currently reading Tao Te Ching (The Book of the Way) by Lao Tzu, a short book of principles about life addressing subjects like love, ecology, and virtues such as humanity or prudence. I also love Indian classical music and enjoy playing. At home, I have few instruments: guitar, sitar, violin… Finally, I like traveling to get to know people who live in other places, visiting museums, historic sites and famous places.

The French startup Carbon Waters, specializing in the development and production of lines of high-performance industrial additives, announces it has raised 2 million euros. Recognized by BPI France and France Industrie as a decarbonization startup in the materials category, Carbon Waters is ramping up its industrial production with a new pilot factory. 

This year the Bordeaux startup has reached a new milestone in its development with the announcement that it has raised 2 million euros in its latest funding round to industrialize its graphene-based high-performance additives production process.

Building of a pilot factory to scale up graphene production

Achieving this new level demonstrates the great potential of its graphene, a nanomaterial that helps develop products offering a wide range of functions. Graphene has been known for its mechanical and thermal resistance and electrical and thermal conductivity for 20 years. It also offers excellent anticorrosion and preservative properties.

Carbon Waters’ unique dispersed graphene production process is at the heart of its disruptive innovation. The process allows the company to provide industrialists with “ready to use” product lines. Four years of R&D and €3 million of investment in the process have already produced two patents, with a third one on the way.


We are currently working in three major development areas: Our first field of expertise is totally or partially replacing toxic products, particularly for paint manufacturers. Our second field of action: decarbonizing the industry and lightening structures for the naval, automobile, aeronautics, and space industries. Our third area of research: developing solutions for storing and transporting hydrogen, and extending the useful life of materials, such as those used in batteries. Alban Chesneau CEO of Carbon Waters


The startup will use the investment to advance from prototyping to the preindustrial process. The funds came from Aquiti Gestion and NACO (Nouvelle-Aquitaine Co-investissement), longtime shareholders, and the Tirésias Angels and Paris Business Angels investment funds, plus several other business angels. Carbon Waters also received financial support from Bpifrance.

The funding will initially finance a pilot factory, whose goal is to be the standard-bearer in ultra-low resource consumption in its processes. The new building, to measure approximately 1200 m2, is expected to take shape over the next few months in metropolitan Bordeaux. The company is implementing a sizeable hiring plan to support its development, creating a dozen skilled jobs.

Carbon Waters currently produces 500 kilos of graphene dispersion. The performance of its additives has been validated by numerous firms representing multiple industrial sectors. The company aims to increase its production tenfold next year, with a goal of producing 50 to 100 tons of graphene dispersion by late 2025. Achieving this ramp-up will require a larger-capacity factory and a larger business team. Its new industrial horizon means another round of fundraising.

The company has two main markets in its sights: paints, which account for potentially €2 billion, and polymers, which could exceed €4 billion. Carbon Waters is sealing multiple technological, industrial, and commercial partnership deals with the leaders in these sectors in order to turbocharge market penetration in France and internationally.

A look at Carbon Waters partners for this fundraising effort

About Carbon Waters

Founded in 2017, Carbon Waters designs and produces a line of ready-to-use, graphene-based additives for industry. Recognized by BPI France and France Industrie as a decarbonization start-up in the materials category, Carbon Waters won a French Tech NA20 award, which aims to reward businesses that make a positive impact. Today, the start-up employs a team of about 15 and had sales of €200,000 in 2022.

About AQUITI Gestion

AQUITI Gestion is an AMF-certified management company specializing in capital investment that has been operating in Nouvelle-Aquitaine for 25 years. With 20 professionals in three offices in Bordeaux, Limoges, and Poitiers, the company has its finger on the pulse of businesses in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. AQUITI Gestion manages over €230M, covering all the needs of the companies in its territory, from innovation grants to capital investments in seed-stage, early-stage, growth-stage, and later-stage companies, with the help of dedicated teams and funds. Its strategy finances start-ups and small to mid-sized companies in amounts ranging from €10K up to €10M, as well as supporting them in their ESG-T (Environmental, Social, and Governance and Territory) efforts. AQUITI made an investment through its ACI fund and the NACO region fund.

About Paris Business Angels

PBA – Paris Business Angels is one of the leading Business Angels networks in France. The group, founded in 2004, has nearly 200 Business Angels members. It has helped over 270 start-ups, with a total amount of €55M raised. PBA invests in all sectors, for seed and early-stage start-ups, with ticket sizes of €200K to €1M. Business Angels are experienced professionals committed to proactively supporting entrepreneurs with advice and access to their networks.

About Tiresias Ventures

Tiresias Ventures is an investment club that supports disruptive technologies to ensure sustainable transformation in the agriculture, energy, and industry sectors. We invest amounts of €200K-€500K and we work alongside entrepreneurs to speed the transition from innovation to a marketable industrial technology.

We decided to invest in Carbon Waters because we are convinced that industrial transformation will be achieved by adopting new, more advanced materials to replace toxic elements and components with a large carbon footprint. Graphene has enormous potential in this area, with numerous possible applications in fields such as automobiles, aeronautics, space, construction, batteries, and electronic devices. After devoting several years to R&D, Carbon Waters has demonstrated two important keys for success: its ability to produce high-quality graphene on a large scale, and the interest of market stakeholders, which was underscored by signing its first commercial agreements. It is rare to find start-ups capable of becoming the global standard in their field, but we have identified this potential in Carbon Waters.

Faced with the challenges of climate change, diminishing natural resources, and the energy and environmental transition, Carbon Waters is developing solutions to reduce the impact of materials and committing to decarbonizing its production processes. Its ambitious road map echoes the government’s action plan to decarbonize the industry.

Carbon Waters has been recognized by Bpifrance and ADEME [agency for ecological transition] as a decarbonizing startup (Materials category) and is a winner of the NA20 French Tech program, which seeks to reward companies making a positive impact. The company hopes to put its own processes to the test to decarbonize its practices and develop more sustainable solutions for its clients. Charlotte Gallois explains, “We make graphene-based additives in order to develop advanced materials with enhanced thermal and mechanical properties. Today graphene is allowing to provide lightweight structures and replace some materials, for example, to replace aluminum with ultra-high performance, resistant polymers.” All these product innovations clearly help to decarbonize, by extending the useful life of materials and coatings. Less use of resources, less energy-intensive manufacturing, and less waste—every box is ticked!

From Start to Finish

After Carbon Waters made its proactive commitment to CSR, it continued on its ethical path by spearheading a no-holds-barred approach to decarbonizing its industrial processes. On the road to decarbonation, the startup is also examining its carbon footprint all along the value chain, from start to finish: supply, manufacturing processes, end of life. Carbon Waters is exploring new pathways for limiting its greenhouse gas emissions. It all starts with sourcing. “Today we are working mainly with an organic solvent and natural graphite. We are currently testing alternative, bio-based solvents, and studying synthetic graphite to see if it will help us reduce our footprint,” notes Gallois. “Our R&D team is also looking into biochar, a bio-sourced raw material created by pyrolysis of rough lumber, to replace graphite over the next few years.” The entire manufacturing process is being closely analyzed, putting in place a recycling loop to reuse 70% of the organic solvent. Gallois adds, “We are entering an era of economy, restraint, and circularity. We have to be a part of it, by making virtuous and sustainable graphene, produced responsibly, in terms of resource conservation, durability, and reuse.”

A Model Pilot Factory

The company also plans to set itself apart with its pilot factory, currently under production. The factory will be the flagship in Carbon Waters’ “low carbon” strategy, a model production unit for respecting biodiversity and saving energy. Most notably, it will implement processes that consume few resources. Gallois states, “We’re also paying particular attention to the building’s orientation from a climate perspective, and to choosing materials that are less carbon-based and more respectful of the environment.” Carbon Waters is an active player in the decarbonization field. It has just joined the European Macramé program as well as Cleantech Open France, which is bringing new functionalities to the goal of making the environmental transition and climate transition.

Last December, Carbon Waters became part of the European Macramé project, a consortium with 19 partners. Its mission is considerable: Run tests to precisely characterize graphene nanoparticles and their toxicity throughout the product lifecycle.

Lucie Chupin explains, “The three-year European Macramé project has gathered stakeholders from academies, business, and laboratories around several case studies on nanoparticles, specifically graphene, carbon nanotubes, and graphene oxide.” The purpose of this vast European study is to see how these nanoparticles behave in end products, such as sprays, heated seats, and varnishes, by looking into five case studies. “In fact,” Chupin adds, “we are going to analyze the whole lifecycle and characterize everything that may be toxic or ecotoxic, at the different product phases: design, production, end of life, etc. Carbon Waters has a dual role in the project. It is both a producer of graphene and an ‘experimenter,’ since we’re in charge of a case study on a battery varnish. In this role, we’re going to simulate deterioration from things like abrasion and heat to see if the varnish withstands high temperatures, if it has recycling potential, if it triggers ecotoxic effects.”

Submitting to Standards and Work Methods

Ultimately, the goal of the program is to subject nonspherical nanoparticles to rigorous standards and work methods. Chupin admits, “So far, we have very little long-term data on graphene oxide and multilayer graphene. Thanks to the Macramé project, we will be able to assess their impact in the matrix, and make recommendations and critical characterizations of standards in order to assess the risks.”

Carbon Waters will be working with labs such as the LNE, National Metrology and Testing Laboratory, and the Swiss lab EMPA, specializing in fine particle analysis, to assist with the work.

Rym Soltani has just joined Carbon Waters as an R&D process manager. The doctoral candidate has been passionate about chemistry since she was a young girl. Now she has decided to leave academic research behind for a career in applied R&D. Read our interview with this major fan of science and the nanoworld.

Before joining Carbon Waters in August 2022, your background was more academic, focused on medical research.

Rym Soltani: That’s right, and these two spheres seem very complementary to me! I’ve always been fascinated by the world of science, especially chemistry. After completing the second year of my master’s degree in organic chemistry and a master’s 2 lab training in therapeutic nanoparticles, I wanted to continue my university studies with a thesis on the use of nanoparticles in biomedical research. But opportunities are rare in Algeria, so I applied for a grant at the University of Strasbourg. I was awarded the grant, so I began my thesis in 2018, under the direction of Dr. Albert Bianco, director of research at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology in Strasbourg. My research topic was about “chemical functionalization of carbon nanotubes for applications in cancer and inflammatory diseases,” where I was in charge of using multiple previously optimized methods to graft antibodies and any other interesting molecules onto the surface of graphene cylinders, and to characterize them by various techniques. I collaborated with teams of biologists to carry out all my research work. They were doing in vitro and in vivo experiments to observe the behavior of nanomaterials and validate their efficacy. I was also able to train in numerous cutting-edge technologies during my research, and to enhance my interdisciplinary skills, like project organization and management. I finally defended my thesis in March 2022, but after much thought, I wanted to test the waters in applied research, which is more concrete and accessible.

What made you choose that?

R.S: My three years of academic research were enormously fulfilling, but I wanted to move out of my comfort zone and tackle field work. Carbon Waters matched my search requirements and my fields of expertise perfectly, since the start-up specializes in graphene, which is a revolutionary, promising material that I am very familiar with from my doctoral work. Its mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties and its anticorrosion qualities give it immense potential for several industries, and I was eager to investigate these new fields of application.

What are your various tasks at Carbon Waters?

R.S: In general, I optimize the graphene dispersion production process. It’s a major challenge if we want to succeed in scaling up and moving on to the industrial phase. On a day-to-day basis, I run various tests to better understand and improve every stage of our current process. These monitoring and verification tasks are part of a virtuous learning loop. They allow us to vary the parameters to improve the performance, output, and quality of our products throughout the production chain.

My team consists of two technicians and a doctoral student. Together, we also conduct multiple lab experiments, where we work in glove boxes in an inert atmosphere, since our products are sensitive to oxygen and humidity. So we’re going to modify all sorts of parameters (temperature, product concentration, synthesis technique used, etc.) to observe the impact of these changes on the process. Our studies have led us to adjust our protocol by eliminating and altering factors that don’t impact graphene production and quality but that have allowed gains in productivity and the work environment.

Aside from graphene, what else are you interested in?

R.S: I have two passions: pastry and travel! For me, pastry-making is a lot like chemistry, because you have to be very exact, very careful, and patient! My specialty is baklava, a flaky pastry with almonds soaked in honey. I recently baked my first macarons, and I also love to make totally original attractive desserts and pastries. When I travel, I never fail to taste the local specialties! I’ve visited multiple countries in Europe and Asia, including Turkey and Malaysia. My childhood dream is to fly off to the US, my “American dream,” and walk around the streets of New York, discovering its most beautiful skyscrapers!



* required fields


Newsletter subscription