Graphene researchers get €1bn funding boost


The European Commission has awarded 1 billion to researchers to help develop commercial applications for graphene.

It is hoped the grant will allow Europe to take on Asia and the US in further developing the so-called wonder material.

The grant was awarded under the EU's Future and Emerging Technology' research programmes. The Graphene Flagship will coordinate 126 academic and industrial research groups in 17 European countries with an initial 30-month budget of 54 million.

Researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester first created the substance. At the time of the breakthrough, it was heralded as a potential material for the development of faster processors.

Key applications for graphene include fast and flexible electronics, optical devices and functional lightweight components and advanced batteries.

In addition to boosting existing products and components, graphene could help create new breeds of products too including consumer electronics such as e-paper and bendable personal communication devices as well as lighter and more energy-efficient airplanes.

In the longer term, graphene is expected to give rise to new computational models and medical applications such as artificial retinas.

The research project will be coordinated by Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology with Professor Jari Kinaret leading research activities.

"Although the flagship is extremely extensive, it cannot cover all areas. For example, we don't intend to compete with Korea on graphene screens," said Kinaret. "Graphene production, however, is obviously central to our project."

During the 30-month ramp-up phase, the Graphene Flagship will focus on communications, ICT and the transport sector. It will also look at supporting applications in the areas of energy technology and sensors.

The details of flagship implementation after the ramp-up phase are still open and form a part of the discussions of the EU's Horizon 2020 research programme.

This initiative is not the only one focused on graphene development of late. Just last week, it was revealed that a Government and Cambridge University-backed graphene research centre would be opening its doors later this year, with work starting as early as next month.

"Our first aim is to look at ways of making graphene that ensure it is still useful at the end of the progrogress,"said Professor Bill Milne, a member of the centre's management team.

"We have to find modes of production that are consistently effective, and there is still a lot of work to be done in this respect."

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.