• Sparc Technologies hits the ASX as a graphene technology company, drops coal business
  • ‘It’s old carbon into new carbon’
  • Focus on three areas: marine coatings, metals recovery from tailings, environmental remediation


Sparc Technologies (ASX:SPN) has left behind its legacy coal business in South Africa to move into the graphene technology space and will re-list on the ASX today.

The company is developing a range of graphene-based applications in collaboration with the University of Adelaide and has received funding from the Australian Research Council.

“The primary intellectual property the company has that we now wish to commercialise are some patents that have been developed by Adelaide University in the use of graphene to improve industrial materials,” managing director Tom Spurling told Stockhead.

After a $4m capital raising recently led by Morgans Corporate, and with its $2m cash in the bank, Sparc now has $6m to spend on pursuing business opportunities in graphene.

Around 20 million shares priced at 20c each were placed with investors in the capital raising.

Perth-based technology investor Rod Jones and his Hoperidge Capital supported the placement, and on re-listing to the ASX, Sparc will have a market value of around $14m.

Graphene applications in the marine market

The company has invested first into an application for graphene to enhance the performance of marine vessels by preventing drag.

This is done by coating the hulls of ships with a graphene-based material that has anti-microbial and anti-corrosive properties and protects from fouling by barnacles.

“The university has done some research on the ability to add graphene to commercially available industrial coatings to improve their performance beyond anything else available,” said Spurling.

“Graphene has certain properties that when infused or intercalated into a coating can improve its anti-microbial and anti-corrosive properties,” he said.

The company in partnership with the university has developed specific graphene product formulas that each serve a different application, such as marine coatings.

“We would aim to have the recipe and the manufacturing process for the graphene and of mixing it into an additive that would be available under a commercial arrangement,” said Spurling.

Graphene is a light and thin material that is super conductive, strong, and water resistant.

Marine coatings market is worth $10bn and growing

Spurling estimates the size of the global market for graphene-based products in marine coating applications at about $US7.4bn ($10bn) in 2018, and growing at 3 per cent a year.

The total size of the protective coatings market for all types of uses globally is around $US16bn ($22bn).

“It takes a long time and a lot of money to repaint a vessel and that has to be done periodically,” said Spurling.

Three international companies have a two-thirds share of the marine coatings market.

“We have enough of a network to demonstrate to the research and development people within those companies that have something interesting, and we would be looking to partner with them and access the market through that channel,” said Spurling.

The Australian government through its Australian Research Council has supported research into graphene and its potential applications in industry.

“We have developed relationships with the university and developed contractual agreements, licences and patents and now we have started to spend some money on particular applications,” said Spurling.

“We, as the industrial commercialisation partner, said we think we can take the technology out of the lab and into industry, and that is where Sparc Technologies comes in,” he said.

Graphene is a derivative of graphite, a crystalline form of carbon, and Australia has large deposits of the material.

From old carbon to new

The company was known as Acacia Coal (ASX:AJC), before it was acquired by South Australian company Graphene Technology Solutions (GTS) in a reverse takeover.

“It’s old carbon into new carbon,” Spurling said.

“The existing shareholders of GTS swapped their private company shares into the listed company, and the existing shareholders of Acacia Coal now have a shareholding in a new business rather than one that just had some cash in the bank,” he said.

The company has divested its coal projects in South Africa after deciding they were no longer prospective to focus on graphene-based environmentally focused technologies.

Tailings extraction application for graphene

Sparc Technologies is pursuing another application for graphene in the extraction of valuable minerals from mine tailings.

“We have chosen marine coatings, metals recovery from tailings, and environmental marine remediation as the three areas to focus on,” said Spurling.

Laboratory-developed technology has shown that graphene can be used to recover minerals such as precious metals from waste products or water, and mine tailings.

Metals with a value of around $US1 trillion are estimated to exist in mine waste tailings worldwide, the company said.

In a year’s time, Sparc Technologies hopes to have further advanced its marine coatings technology, and to have developed channels to market for its graphene products.