New research to be conducted into ‘wonder material’ graphene

Posted on 24 Jan 2013 by Tim Brown

The University of Cambridge is undertaking new research into the potential industrial applications of the 'wonder material' graphene and plans to open a £25 million dedicated research facility at the end of the year.

Graphene is a one-atom thick layer of graphite with its atoms arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern. It is exceptionally strong and flexible, enables electrons to flow faster than silicon and functions as a transparent conductor.  The material is also extremely lightweight. A one square meter sheet weighs only 0.77 milligrams.

The material has the potential to revolutionise numerous industries, ranging from healthcare to electronics. At the moment however, sheets of graphene that are just one atom thick are difficult to grow in a controllable manner, manipulate, or connect with other materials.

The Cambridge Graphene Centre will start its activities on February 1st 2013. Its objective is to take graphene to the next level, bridging the gap between academia and industry. It will also be a shared research facility with state-of-the-art equipment, which any scientist researching graphene will have the opportunity to use.

Professor Andrea Ferrari, who will be the Centre’s Director, said: “We are now in the second phase of graphene research, following the award of the Nobel Prize to Geim and Novoselov. That means we are targeting applications and manufacturing processes, and broadening research to other two-dimensional materials and hybrid systems.”

The Centre’s activities will be funded by a Government grant worth more than £12 million, which was allocated to the University in December by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).  The rest of this money will support projects focusing both on how to manufacture high-quality graphene on an industrial scale, and on developing some of its potential applications.

The Government funding for the Centre is complemented by strong industrial support, worth an additional £13 million, from over 20 partners, including Nokia, Dyson, Plastic Logic, Philips and BaE systems. A further £11M of European Research Council funding will support activities with the Graphene Institute in Manchester, and Lancaster University.