The UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is part of a consortium that has been funded half a billion Euros by the European Commission to develop the potential of graphene along with related materials for applications in computing, batteries and sensors.
The new funding, in addition to support from the European Metrology Research Programme and the UK's National Measurement Office, will help advance NPL's work on more accurate quantum standards based on graphene — an ultrathin, flexible and conducting form of carbon — and other low-dimensional materials. This will help to develop and improve measurement methods, which will ultimately fast track the time it takes to bring graphene technologies to market.
The Graphene Flagship project aims to lead to development of new materials that will revolutionise diverse industries. It will be coordinated by theoretical physicist Jari Kinaret at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.
NPL's role in the project is twofold. Firstly, it will demonstrate more accurate and easy to use quantum standards based on graphene and other low-dimensional materials, and secondly it will develop and improve the measurement methods that will help bring graphene technologies to market.
NPL's Alexander Tzalenchuk, Principal Research Scientist in NPL's Quantum Detection Group and the Principal Investigator on this project, said: "The NPL Quantum Detection Group is proud to be part of the Graphene Flagship consortium, particularly as the sole National Measurement Institute from Europe. This recognises our important contribution to the field of graphene metrology, and the essential role of measurement in underpinning the development of new science and technology for effective real world applications."
Potential applications of graphene are manifold, but those that are anticipated in the near future range from ultrathin, flexible, cheap touch-screen displays to "morphable" gadgets, such as smart-phones. Graphene could also soon have a role in developing very high frequency (THz) transistors, photo-detectors, optical modulators, mode-locked lasers, transparent electrodes for solar cells and the next generation of batteries and super-capacitors. Lightweight extra-strong composite materials, conducting paints and various coatings, as well as atom-thin filters based on graphene are also anticipated.
The European Commission chose two flagship research proposals to fund following a well publicised two-year competition. The second project aims to simulate everything known about the human brain in a supercomputer to aid medical advancement in brain disorders. Both projects will receive €1 billion over ten years, half will be provided by the European Commission and half by participants.
The Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagship competition was launched in 2009 as a challenge to apply information and communication technologies to social problems. The final winners were selected from a shortlist of six projects as being the most likely to achieve the paradigm-shifting advances desired. They will now enter a 'ramp-up' phase, receiving €54 million each over 30 months from the EU's 7th Framework Programme of Research. Subsequent phases will be supported under its successor, Horizon 2020.