According to the EPSRC, graphene is the strongest and thinnest material ever measured, and also the world’s most conductive material. It is claimed to have a range of potential uses, including electronics, flexible touchscreens, sensors and in composite materials.
The investment, originally announced by the UK government in October 2011, will help establish the UK as a graphene research and technology ’hub’. Funding will come from the EPSRC and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and is expected to lead to the commercialisation of graphene technologies in the UK.
According to a statement, a key element of the graphene hub, aided through four investment strands, will be a national institute of graphene research and commercialisation activities.
Manchester University has been confirmed as the single supplier invited to submit a proposal for funding a new £45m national institute, £38m of which will be provided by the UK government. This shared facility for graphene research and commercialisation activities will be able to be accessed by researchers and business.
The national institute, funded through the EPSRC and Manchester University, will offer access to specialist facilities and equipment that enable the simulation of manufacturing processes.
Manchester University is an acknowledged research leader in graphene research and is the academic home of Prof Sir Andre Geim and Prof Sir Kostya Novoselov, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for demonstrating the remarkable properties of graphene.
Prof David Delpy, EPSRC chief executive, said: ‘From the first grant of just over £500,000 in August 2001, which led to the demonstration of graphene, to a grant of more than £5m awarded in October 2009 to investigate the potential of the material, the EPSRC directly funded the research that led to the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics being awarded to Prof Andre Geim and Prof Kostya Novoselov.
‘This new investment will help accelerate commercialisation and open up new opportunities for growth. The race to be the first country to produce commercial products is well and truly on.’
Further investment strands for graphene engineering and research technology have also been announced.
Up to £12m is available from the UK government to invest in research equipment related to graphene. The EPSRC will seek to fund equipment that can be used across a variety of disciplines and research groups and that will be accessible to business.
An additional £10m of investment is available from the EPSRC’s research budget to support graphene engineering research, and accelerate the generation of novel devices, technologies and systems. It will also strengthen the UK’s position in relation to European initiatives with potential for further financial leverage.
An innovation centre to focus on the market development and exploitation of emerging graphene technologies will be established, with around £10m of investment from the EPSRC and the TSB.
Separate from the institute of graphene research and supported by business, the centre will help to accelerate the development, application and exploitation of new graphene technologies, in order for them to realise their full commercial and economic potential.