Research team receives share of government’s graphene pot

Bath and Exeter universities have joined those sharing £21m of funding that the government is hoping will put Britain at the forefront of graphene research.

Researchers at the universities’ Centre for Graphene Science have received more than £1.1m from the pot allocated by George Osborne last month for research into the development and commercialisation of the one-atom-thick form of carbon known as graphene.

Graphene is one of the thinnest, lightest, strongest and most conductive materials known and is expected to make a significant contribution to electronics and other areas of engineering if appropriate manufacturing techniques and industrial applications can be found.

The government is hoping the UK will play a big role in the development of graphene and reap the economic benefits of its commercialisation by building on the Nobel-prize-winning work of scientists at Manchester University in the last decade.

A team led by Exeter’s Prof David Wright and Bath’s Prof Simon Bending is the latest to receive a share in the government’s graphene pot, which is being distributed by the EPSRC and supplemented by £12m from industrial partners, including BAE Systems and Dyson.

Wright said in a statement: ‘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 biosensors 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.’

Other research to receive funding includes a £1.35m project at Imperial College London to explore how combining graphene with current materials can improve the properties of aircraft parts, such as making them resistant to lightning strikes.

The researchers hope the same technology can also be used to develop coatings for wind-turbine blades, to make them scratch resistant and physically tougher in extreme weather conditions.