The amazing world of Graphene

Friday, 28th August 2020

Graphene was discovered and isolated in 2004 by Prof Andre Geim and Prof Kostya Novoselov at The University of Manchester.  Andre and Kostya won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their pioneering work.  Since then an incredible amount of work and research has gone into it’s development creating products that are literally changing the world, it would therefore have been remiss of us not to find out more at Trailblazing Tech 2020.

We were honoured to be joined by Lisa Scullion applications manager for the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) which is the University’s, multi-million pound centre that sees industry-led development in graphene applications.  Lisa took us on a whistle stop tour into the amazing world of graphene, and you can now watch the session back.

With such an interesting topic and limited time we had many questions from the audience at home, here were a few that were left unanswered and we are now delighted to share Lisa’s insights with you

As this is such a new technology, are people looking into the carbon impact and how to make the commercialisation of graphene greener?

Yes – The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre is working closely with the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub at the new Henry Royce Institute (also in Manchester) to carry out activities such as lifecycle analysis and impact analysis of new graphene products. Alongside this, many of the projects being undertaken by the GEIC involve reducing environmental impact in some way, such as reducing the amount of plastic used in packaging, replacing plastic, lightweighting aircraft and cars, or reducing the amount of concrete used in construction.

Was there any ‘special sauce’ innovation wise that let Manchester be the first to discover this?

I suppose the ‘special sauce’ in the isolation of graphene was the combination of world leading expertise in condensed matter physics, along with the curiosity of the ‘Friday Night Experiments’ that the two Professors used to run. These sessions were open lab sessions when they were free to carry out research that was truly blue sky. It was at one of these sessions when they began peeling the graphite layers, eventually successfully isolating a single atomic layer – graphene.

Has Manchester made the most of Graphene’s commercial value?

Manchester has been awarded millions of pounds in research grants and industry funding to explore and exploit the properties of graphene, and has built up a world-leading research capabilities with over £120m of dedicated research space, and over 350 people now working on graphene and 2D materials. We are at the stage now where more graphene products are reaching the market, many having been developed in Manchester. However graphene cannot be ‘owned’ by anyone, as it’s always existed. So graphene research and development is a global field now with products being developed all over the world. However, Manchester is definitely seen as the place to be in order to understand and rapidly exploit graphene, and develop new applications.