Graphene is a single-atom-thick honeycomb layer of carbon that is harder than diamond yet more elastic than rubber, tougher than steel yet lighter than aluminum. Graphene is currently the strongest and stiffest material known to man. It’s 200 times stronger than steel, stronger than diamond, and 30 times stronger than Kevlar.
Graphene has been around since 2003, when it was discovered by scientists at the University of Manchester in the UK. It’s been extremely well researched in the 20 years since and is being used in commercial applications ranging from tennis rackets, snow skis, and golf-club shafts to racing cars. It’s also used in electronics, super conductors, textiles, desalination equipment, and even paint.
Until now, “graphene” fly rods available on the market contained a small percentage of graphene nano material contained within the resin of carbon-fiber prepreg. It’s this prepreg material that’s rolled onto a mandrel and cured to create a fly-rod blank. Prepreg with graphene-infused resin is available from a handful of suppliers and has allowed some manufacturers to build fly rods that are reportedly lighter and stronger.
St. Croix Rod, however, has found a better way to use graphene in fishing rods and owns the exclusive rights to do so via a strategic partnership with the progressive Indianapolis-based company, MITO® Material Solutions.
“MITO solves industrial challenges with micro-sized solutions with the goal of making high-performance materials available to anyone,” says MITO co-founder and CEO, Haley Marie Keith. “MITO doesn’t make graphene; we functionalize graphene so manufacturers can incorporate the material and its significant benefits into their products themselves – without relying on third-party suppliers or drastically changing manufacturing processes.”
Keith explains that such functionalization involves adding other elements to the graphene to improve its solubility, enhance its strength, or improve its bonding to a host matrix material. The resulting additive makes graphene easier to use while maximizing its beneficial properties allows companies within the sports and recreation, transportation, automotive, infrastructure, and other industries to design and manufacture products and components with improved performance, endurance, strength, flexibility, and/or sustainability.
Viewed at 1500x magnification, MITO’ s functionalized graphene is structured to optimize bonding to a host matrix material, maximizing graphene’s beneficial properties. MITO Material Solutions photo.
St. Croix Rod is leveraging MITO’s technology by applying its functionalized graphene product to its prepreg rod-building materials in house. “The functionalized MITO graphene product we’re using comes pre-dispersed in a solvent that we can accurately apply to any of our rod-building materials,” says St. Croix Vice President of Research and Development, Jason Brunner. “The MITO product is fiber-agnostic, meaning it’s compatible with any carbon or glass material we want to use. That’s important because many of our rod blank designs contain multiple materials. More importantly, though, MITO’s formula ensures that the graphene concentrations within the solvent are homogenous, meaning the graphene material is very evenly dispersed – much more so than the commercially available resins which contain graphene. This is critical because there’s a very fine line between too much or too little graphene. In order to achieve the intended benefits, we are applying a total weight loading of actual graphene material at accuracies within .01%. The functionalize graphene product we’re receiving from MITO Material Solutions is the only thing making this possible.”
Brunner dives further into the St. Croix / MITO relationship. “As a company that exists solely to create better angling experiences, we’re constantly exploring new materials, new technologies, and new relationships that help us build rods that create new and expanding angler benefits,” Brunner says. “I met Haley at CAMX (Composites and Advanced Materials Expo) a couple years ago, and the more we talked about the unique work MITO was doing with graphene, the more intrigued and impressed I became. Their Hybrid Functionalized Graphene is made in America and it’s the only such product that’s verified by the Graphene Council, which regulates the graphene industry. At the end of the day, MITO offers the ideal graphene product that meshes perfectly with our manufacturing processes and allows us to maximize graphene’s angler benefits in our fly-rod designs.”
Larimer says graphene’s dampening properties translate to a variety of key performance enhancements. “Dampening means how quickly a rod recovers – or becomes straight – after it’s flexed. We’re seeing dramatically quicker recovery times using MITO graphene, which allows casters to generate higher line speeds while increasing the stability of their loops.” Larimer also says graphene increases torsional rigidity. “Our graphene-enhanced fly rods also control and reduce twist. The increased torsional rigidity helps to keep the rod’s energy moving in a single plane, which results in increased accuracy.” Finally, graphene also improves a rod’s overall strength-to-weight ratio. “Our testing has shown significant increases in hoop strength and overall durability in rods using MITO’s functionalized graphene.”
Overall, Larimer and Brunner claim anglers casting St. Croix’s graphene-enhanced fly rods will notice fast and powerful actions that deliver exceptional feel and accuracy. “We can describe what MITO’s technology allows us to accomplish from design and manufacturing standpoints,” Larimer says, “but at the end of the day, what an angler is able to feel, notice, and experience while fishing one of our rods is all that matters. Power with precision is the best way I can describe it.”
Anglers can experience the benefits of MITO graphene technology for themselves beginning November 1 with the availability of St. Croix’s all-new EVOS and EVOS SALT premium, high-performance fly rod series.
EVOS challenges the status quo of traditional fly-rod design and sets the bar for multi-technique performance. Conceived and delivered for anglers who make life decisions based on hatch charts, gage heights, and migration timing, EVOS consists of 14 fast-action four-piece models ranging from line sizes #4 through #8.
Similarly, EVOS SALT optimizes angler ability by delivering critical control in any saltwater environment — whether driving a hero cast into a relentless headwind or delicately delivering a surgical strike in impossibly calm conditions. EVOS SALT is available in seven fast/salt-action four-piece models covering critical #6 through #12 line sizes. Retail prices are $975 and $1,025, respectively. Both premium series are designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, Wisconsin and are backed by a 15-year warranty.
Interested in becoming a St. Croix Fly dealer? Email [email protected].
ABOUT MITO MATERIAL SOLUTIONS
MITO® Material Solutions unlocks the power of hybrid polymer materials with specialty additives which dramatically improve performance. The MITO family of products include graphene additive, E-GO™ and cornstarch-based additive, ACRE™ . All of MITO’s products are easily dispersible, safe to handle, scalable solutions designed to empower manufacturers without changing production process. Woman-led, MITO is becoming a startup sensation in the composite industry. Visit mitomaterials.com to learn more.
ABOUT ST. CROIX FLY
At the core of our brand ethos lives a simple yet fierce conviction; we exist to create dynamic fishing tools that intuitively help you evolve as a caster and angler. Our focused philosophy continually questions conventional wisdom, inspires innovation, and drives our persistent pursuit of fly rod perfection. When you own a St. Croix — it’s more than just a rod, it’s a promise. It’s 75 years of hard-earned knowledge aimed at designing and building the Best Rods on Earth, so you can be at your best in your own persistent pursuit. Join our journey at stcroixfly.com.