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Vittoria’s tire miracle

By Raymond Kerckhoffs

Lomazzo – A simple farmer, who manufactures cycling tires. That’s how Rudie Campagne felt during the IDTechEx congress at Santa Clara University, in the company of material scientists from NASA, Boeing and DuPont.

Founder, co-owner and CEO of Vittoria cycling tires (1500 employees) was one of the speakers and received the IDTechEx award for the most innovative product. The fact that Graphene is actually used in an end product was even called groundbreaking on a global scale.

Graphene, a flat carbon molecule, was discovered by Nobel Prize winners André Geim and Kostya Novoselov. It is 200 to 300 times stronger than steel and is harder than diamond. It is only one atomic layer thick, very flexible and it is the lightest material known to man.

The European Commission made available a record subsidy of 1 billion for the research of Graphene. According to Brussels, Graphene could be the 21st century equivalent of plastic in the past century. The Italian Directa Plus, employing only 20 scientists, managed to extract Graphene from Graphite using nanotechnology and made it applicable to rubber, textile, carbon, plastic and glass amongst other things.

“With 24 patents secured, David managed to beat Goliath”, as director Giulio Cesareo describes his groundbreaking discovery. It is remarkable that a small firm has managed to outsmart the rich multinationals. Campagne believed that Graphene could be revolutionary for his cycling tires from the start. Ultimately he became joint rights holder of the patents. In Asia, large companies are already reaching out for collaboration, while in Europe the approach is still reluctant.

Nevertheless, the possibilities seem to be greatly diversified. Cesareo offers an example: “For example, we liquefied Graphene, similar to paint. Every object we have treated with it was no longer flammable”. Global players like RayBan and Foxconn (manufacturer of Apple’s iPhone) are close to partnerships.

Campagne: “In Thailand we are planning to build a much bigger factory to increase the capacity significantly. One of the first steps will be to strategically investigate which car tire manufacturer is capable to jointly develop graphene in rubber further.”