Collaboration is key for graphene development
The National Graphene Institute (NGI) opened its doors in March 2015. In the last 16 months the graphene community has made great strides in both developing research and establishing a viable commercial base.
The new facilities afforded to our 240+ graphene academics by the NGI have seen unique and unexpected fundamental research. Some recent findings demonstrating that our knowledge of physics at the nanoscale is still increasing rapidly alongside the development of application-based research.
Our lab capacity and state-of-the-art equipment has also allowed for the fabrication and testing of real-world graphene-based demonstrators and prototypes of an increasingly complex nature. The eco-system for establishing Graphene City in Manchester is continuing apace – allowing us to develop the supply chain of this still very young material alongside world-leading academic research.
The central building block for accelerating commercialisation has been our ability to collaborate with our 50 industrial partners. We now have access to a number of new materials from several UK based graphene companies.
With access to trusted material alongside world-leading materials research we are now at the point of the journey where we can say ‘stop worrying about making graphene, instead start concentrating on innovative applications’.
Whether a multinational company or a relatively new SME approaches us with a challenge-led problem, we have the infrastructure in place to collaborate on projects within a whole range of areas – composites, electronics, energy storage, smart textiles.
The most recent example of our industrial collaborations was highlighted in a recent conversation I had with Neil Ricketts, CEO of Versarien.
Over the past year Professor Robert Young of the NGI and School of Materials at The University of Manchester has been collaborating on a project with Versarien plc. on the development of Graphene-Enhanced Fibre-Reinforced Thermoset Composites.
It has been found that considerable improvements can be made to the properties of carbon-fibre reinforced composites through the incorporation of different forms of graphene produced by 2-DTECH, an operating company of Versarien plc. This technology is now being developed by Versarien in the production of fibre-reinforced composite structures with enhanced properties and performance.
Alongside Versarien, the likes of Haydale and Thomas Swan and others are partnerships with innovative UK companies which allow us to leverage each party’s particular expertise. The partnerships are continuing to develop and the outputs in the next 12 months are hugely promising.
The NGI and the forthcoming Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre will be at the heart of a global graphene community. A critical mass of scientists, engineers, industrialists and innovators all located in Manchester.
A collaborative approach between academia and industry is key to furthering the UK’s base as the centre for graphene research and development.
Graphene Business Director