The University of Cambridge (UK) will lead the technology roadmap towards a €1 billion (US$1.46 billion) European program to conduct research on graphene.
The ambitious and large-scale initiative aims to achieve new breakthroughs both in terms of technological innovation using graphene, and the economic exploitation of the material.
Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms in a honeycomb lattice. Its high electrical conductivity and optical transparency mean that it is ideal for applications like touchscreens, liquid crystal displays, and organic light-emitting diodes. In particular, it is seen as an alternative to indium tin oxide, which is commonly used in liquid crystal displays but is brittle and costly.
Graphene’s mechanical strength and flexibility are also advantageous, as they mean that the material can be fixed to any surface and bent or twisted without becoming damaged.
By understanding graphene’s unique properties, researchers hope to turn this potential in reality, developing the material’s potential uses as an alternative to batteries, lightweight components for cars and planes, and in the fields of spintronics, quantum information processing and communication technology.
Ground-breaking experiments on graphene, carried out by UK scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. Their work has sparked a scientific explosion, best illustrated by the exponential growth of publications and patents related to graphene.
The pilot phase of the project started on May 1. This includes Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, the Universities of Manchester, Lancaster, and Cambridge in the UK, the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology in Spain, the Italian National Research Council, the European Science Foundation, AMO GmbH, Nokia, and has 4 Nobel Prize winners in the advisory board (Geim, Novoselov, Fert and von Klitzing). Its main task is to pave the way for the full, 10 year, €1 billion flagship programme. The plan for this will be submitted to the European Commission in 2012, with a view to launching in 2013.