Graphene, the new wonder child of materials science, will be the focus of a 10-year, 1 billion euro ($1.45 billion US) research project designed by Cambridge University.
The thinnest, strongest material ever made, graphene has sparked a frenzy of materials research in virtually every industry, including coatings, since the flake of carbon inspired Nobel Prize-winning research in 2010.
Stronger and stiffer than diamond, yet stretchable like rubber, graphene has been found to conduct heat and conduct electricity as well as copper. It is almost transparent, yet so dense that not even helium can pass through it, experts say. Graphene also allows electrons to flow much faster than silicon, and many experts believe it will soon replace silicon technologies.
Already, patent applications and publications on graphene technology are exploding. North American and Asian R&D is focusing heavily on graphene.
In the coatings world, researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville have developed ultra-water-resistant graphene oxide films that can cause water to either bead up and run off or spread into a thin layer. Researchers foresee applications in ship hull and glass coatings.
Vanderbilt University / Daniel Dubois
|James Dickerson, of Vanderbilt University, is among many scientists working on graphene-based coating research.|
And at Wichita State University, research is focusing on graphene as a nanocoating additive that can help prevent UV Degradation and corrosion on wind turbine blades.
Now, graphene has become the focus of the European Commission’s latest Future Emerging Technology Flagship program.
The “ambitious, large-scale visionary research initiative” aims at “a breakthrough for technological innovation and economic exploitation based on graphene and related two-dimensional materials,” the EC said in a release.
Hopes for the material in multiple applications are extraordinarily high.
Graphene’s “unique properties will spawn innovation on an unprecedented scale and scope for high speed, transparent and flexible consumer electronics; novel information processing devices; biosensors; supercapacitors as alternatives to batteries; mechanical components; [and] lightweight composites for cars and planes,” the EC said.
130 Research Groups
The graphene flagship already includes more than 130 research groups, representing 80 academic and industrial partners in 21 European countries. Cambridge University’s department of engineering will determine the principal research focuses.
Cambridge is one of nine consortium partners that will lead the Flagship. The others—all pioneers in graphene research and innovation—are Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, the Universities of Manchester and Lancaster in the UK, the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology in Spain, the Italian National Research Council, the European Science Foundation, AMO GmbH in Germany, and the Nokia corporation.
The advisory council includes four Nobel Laureates, the leading graphene theoretician and others.
The pilot phase coordination action began May 1. Cambridge will submit the initial Flagship action plan, defining the scope of research, to the European Commission in 2012.