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Wonder material graphene given research boost

12 October, 2011

Graphene, the world’s thinnest, strongest and most conductive material, has received a huge research boost in the UK, set to bring the material into mainstream global commercialisation.

The British Government has laid out plans for the creation of a Graphene Global Research and Technology Hub to commercialise graphene’s remarkable properties.

Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov, who discovered graphene at The University of Manchester in 2004, were awarded the 2010 Nobel prize in Physics for their research.

Graphene, a novel two-dimensional material which can be seen as a monolayer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, is one of the world’s most versatile materials. Its potential applications include touchscreen mobile phones, lighter aircraft wings, superfast internet connections and transistors.

Since the discovery, Professors Geim and Novoselov have continued to carry our world-class research, including the potential applications of graphene.

The development of the Hub will capitalise on the UK’s international leadership in the field. It will act as a catalyst to spawn new businesses, attract global companies and translate the value of scientific discovery into wealth and job creation.

The centre would help develop the technology to allow manufacture on a scale that would open up promising commercial opportunities, incorporating a large doctoral training centre and advanced research equipment.

A full business case is being developed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). Work leading to the award of the Nobel prize was funded by EPSRC long before the applications were realised.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, said the pace and scale of graphene research in Manchester has escalated dramatically and its commercial potential is growing by the day.

“Graphene is one of the most important scientific advancements in recent times. We are proud of the world-class research carried out here and to have that recognised by the Government is a real vindication of the work we do,” Professor Rothwell said.

“As the UK’s leading centre for graphene research, we look forward to the creation of the Graphene Hub which will help to stimulate the economy, create jobs and new business opportunities.”

Professor Geim said: “Technology is the engine of the economy, and science is the petrol to keep this engine running. The state of the global economy is in such a mess that its engine requires urgent repairs. Unfortunately, not only we run out of the petrol (by practically exhausting the previous scientific knowledge) but we also run out of money to buy new petrol.”

“It is important that this Government realises the fundamental importance of science and, even in this economic climate, finds the extra money to get the economy a mile closer to the next petrol station.”

Professor Novoselov said: “With the enormous interest this material has already generated around the world, we expect to be able to convert our world-leading research expertise into real technologies.

“The Research Hub will certainly allow us to explore deeper into the vast applied potential of graphene, but also will lead to many new exciting results, continuing the scientific excellence in the UK.”

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