The company’s graphite deposit in Albany, Ontario, could serve as a source for high quality graphite and graphene products developed from its research and development hub.
However, the firm has yet to fully develop its three areas of focus–Advanced Materials, Clean Technology and Green Energy.
Zen Graphene Solutions, (Symbol ZEN on the Toronto Venture Exchange; www.zengraphene.com), discovered its Albany graphite deposit in northern Ontario in 2011.
Apart from developing a mine at the property, the company also hopes to use graphite from the deposit to develop graphene-based nanomaterial products and applications.
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Graphite is one of two naturally occurring crystalline forms of carbon (the other is diamond). Graphite is a soft, greyish-black mineral with a metallic sheen. A graphite crystal is made up of loosely stacked one-atom-thick layers, much like a deck of cards. These layers can slide around, which makes graphite a good lubricant.
Graphite is also an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. It is relatively inert, being unaffected by most chemicals, and maintains its properties even at temperatures in excess of 3,500 Celsius.
One developing use for graphite is in graphene sheets. Two Manchester University scientists discovered graphene in 2004 and subsequently won the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Graphene sheets are so thin that it takes three million of them to make a 1millimetre-thick layer. It’s estimated that a sheet of graphene as thick as cling wrap could hold the weight of an elephant. Graphene also conducts electricity better than copper or aluminum and can stretch by up to 20% without being damaged. Once it’s fully developed, graphene could have many commercial, military and aerospace uses.
Zen hopes that pure graphite from its Albany mine will potentially provide it with a competitive advantage in the graphene market, as well as its traditional graphite markets.
Meanwhile, Zen leases a facility in Guelph, Ontario, that serves as its research and development hub as well as a small-scale production plant. The site is where the company is working to develop graphene products for use in a wide variety of applications, including graphene-enhanced composite materials, batteries, coatings and lubricants.
The company aims to discover applications with commercial potential in the following areas: Advanced Materials (graphene-enhanced polymers, concrete, and metal composites); Clean Technology (corrosion prevention, membrane technologies); and Green Energy (fuel additives and battery technologies).
So far, Zen has entered into a number of research collaborations, but has yet to report any revenue. The company is using up its cash at a rate of about $700,000 per quarter. With cash of $2.1 million on December 31, 2020, plus a recent $4 million share issue, it has enough to sustain its development activities well into next year.
Meanwhile, the stock has moved up sharply since mid-September 2020 from around $0.40 to around $3.77 before falling to today’s price of $2.38. That’s after Zen announced it has developed a graphene ink (graphene mixed with solvents so it can be easily dispersed through printing) with virus-killing properties.
The company believes that its novel graphene-based virucidal (virus-killing) ink is 99% effective on the COVID-19 virus.
Zen has now received results from its latest round of testing on its exclusive graphene ink. Western University’s ImPaKT facility Biosafety Level 3 laboratory led that testing, which took 2 graphene-based ink samples at different concentrations and applied them to N95 mask filtration media. It was then exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, and later tested for its antiviral properties.
Zen reports that very significant virucidal activity was recorded, with 99% of the virus in both samples inactivated. A second round of testing backed up those findings. You should note that the antiviral effect of the second round of testing was on material that was prepared 35 days earlier. That suggests the ink’s properties can maintain their virus-killing effect over time.
The company is now interested in collaborating with any personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer that is looking to incorporate an antiviral compound into their product lines. The goal would be to bring those products to market in order to help in the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, we see a couple of big risks with Zen.
Whether it can successfully commercialize any of its products—including its virucidal ink against COVID-19—is far from certain. And meanwhile, the Albany graphite deposit is still in the exploration and development phase. That’s a long way, if it ever occurs, from commercial production.
Zen’s shares may move up further if investor interest in its COVID-19 ink rises.
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