flexi phones

More than half of a £21 million fund for research into graphene has been awarded to Cambridge University to develop applications in electronics, it was revealed today.

Cambridge has won over £12 million to develop and commercialise flexible electronics and optoelectronics that use graphene, so it can be used in things like touch screens.

The graphene research fund, which was originally announced by the Chancellor George Osbourne over the Christmas period, will also see £4.5 million going to Imperial College London to develop composite materials based on graphene for aerospace applications.  Other winners include the University of Exeter, where research into manufacturing processes will be conducted and Manchester, where the use of graphene for energy storage will be examined.

The properties of graphene, a type of carbon which is stronger than diamond, yet lightweight, flexible and enables electrons to flow faster than silicon,  were first demonstrated by Manchester University academics Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov. The pair won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 for their pioneering work. It is hoped graphene will now deliver staggering increases in performance for materials in many technological and industrial areas from electronics and telecommunications to sports equipment and construction.

The Cambridge electronics research is being headed up by Professor Andrea Ferrari, head of the Nanomaterials and Spectroscopy Group at the University of Cambridge and involves 18 different industrial partners, including the leading flexible electronics developer Plastic Logic, BAE Systems, Nokia and Dyson.

According to documents at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the “final aim” of the wide-ranging research programme “is to develop graphene-augmented smart integrated devices on flexible/transparent substrates, with the necessary energy storage capability to work autonomously and wireless connected”.

Ferrari was the spokesperson for an initiative to raise awareness of the potential applications of graphene for the Europe wide research programme, which resulted in this useful video. At the launch event he said:  “Our mission is to take graphene and related layered materials from a state of raw potential to a point where they can revolutionise multiple industries – from flexible, wearable and transparent electronics to high performance computing and spintronics. This material will bring a new dimension to future technology – a faster, thinner, stronger, flexible, and broadband revolution.”

The research team at the University of Exeter, which will look at new manufacturing techniques using graphene is being headed up by Professor David Wright. He said:  “Graphene is the thinnest known material, and its potential is almost limitless. It can be exploited to deliver a vast range of new applications, from ultra high-speed electronic devices to bio-sensors and solar cells or high-energy batteries, to name but a few.

“However, current methods for the manufacture of graphene have many drawbacks that act as barriers to the successful development of graphene products. Our goal is to accelerate the commercial exploitation of graphene by developing new ways of manufacturing and using the material.”

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