LONDON – The U.K. government has said it will spend £70 million (about $120 million) to fund a national institute of graphene research and commercialisation activities, in Manchester, in the northwest of England.
A race is on the produce the first commercial products based on graphene, the two-dimensional form of crystalline carbon that has tremendous strength and much higher electron mobility than silicon. And the U.K. government is keen to capitalize on advantages the country enjoys as hosts to pioneering research into graphene and try and build up engineering and manufacturing expertise in the wonder material.
The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2010 was awarded "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene" to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, two scientests who began their academic careers in Russia but who are both now installed as professors at the University of Manchester.
Graphene is the strongest and thinnest material ever measured, and also the world’s most conductive material. It is expected to have a disruptive effect in many areas of electronics including semiconductors, flexible touch screens, sensors, and in composite materials.
The University of Manchester has been confirmed as the single supplier invited to submit a proposal for funding a new £45 million national institute, £38 million of which will be provided by the UK government. This world-class shared facility for graphene research and commercialization activities will be accessible by both researchers and business and although based at Manchester, will be a resource for research groups and businesses across the U.K. and open to broader collaboration.
An additional £12 million is available from the U.K. government to invest in research equipment related to graphene. An additional £10 million of investment is available from budgets to support graphene engineering research, and accelerate the generation of novel devices, technologies and systems. It will also strengthen the UK position in relation to European initiatives with potential for further financial leverage.
A further £10 million has been set aside to fund a separate graphene innovation center for which additional funding is expected to come from industry. The center is intended to help accelerate the development, application and exploitation of new graphene technologies.
South Korean electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. is one company that is already collaborating with the University of Manchester on the application of graphene technology. Samsung is reportedly working on flexible displays based that utilize the material.
"With a Nobel Prize and hundreds of published papers under their belts, scientists in the U.K. have already demonstrated that we have real strengths in this area. The graphene hub will build on this by taking this research through to commercial success," said David Willetts, the U.K. government minister for universities and science, in a statement.
Andre Geim gave a speech a year before he won the Nobel prize in Boston. When asked about the commercial applications of graphene, he told a joke about people aboard a cruise ship on the mediterranean. The sun was setting and golden and there were a large pod of dolphins playing near the boat, jumping out of water in sync from time to time, everybody on board was silent and utterly absorbed by the sheer beauty of this scene. Then, suddenly a boy shouted out "Mom, can we eat them?"
I guess its time the eat the dolphins now. :)