Posted in | Graphene

The Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network Announce General Findings on 'Structural and Bulk' Graphene Applications

Published on June 27, 2013 at 11:03 AM

The Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network, one of the UK’s primary knowledge-based networks for Micro and Nanotechnologies, is pleased to announce general findings from two separate industrial consultation workshops held earlier in the year, one considering applications for ‘structural and bulk’ graphene applications, organised in conjunction with the Chemistry Innovation and Materials KTNs, and the other cosidering electrical and electronic (e.g. ‘2-D materials’) applications, held in partnership with the ESP and Materials KTNs.

The NanoKTN has been communicating these findings at the Graphene Commercialisation & Applications Global Industry and Academia Collaboration Summit, taking place in London this week.

Graphene, a nanomaterial based on a single sheet of carbon atoms, has created a lot of interest across many industrial sectors, from electronics to energy, transport to healthcare.

The consultation workshops were held to obtain industry opinion on the commercial future of graphene, to gain an understanding for the market size and potential commercial applications of graphene in these spaces, and to discuss how long it will take to achieve the commercialisation of these potential applications.

The NanoKTN also wanted to gain an understanding of what the barriers to commercialisation are most likely to be and to make recommendations on how these barriers can be surmounted or circumnavigated.

General findings from the electrical and electronic application workshop confirmed that graphene is a significant material and enabling technology for future UK wealth creation in manufacture. Industrial feedback at the event suggested that electronic graphene will address a different market and supply chain when compared to that of ‘bulk’ graphene.

Bulk graphene manufacture and use has a wide range of potential high value applications, whereas ‘2-D materials’ (i.e. not just graphene) will be a significant future area for electronic applications.  

The UK has a strong legacy in the development of manufacturing plant and metrology and characterisation systems for the semiconductor industry. This should be specifically recognised and nurtured for the emerging graphene market. There are many SMEs in the UK (and in EU) that provide deposition and measurement equipment and materials to the semiconductor industry.

The development, equipment manufacturing and supply chain in the UK for graphene enabled applications is starting to thrive, especially the process/deposition equipment manufacturers. But the key challenge for electronics applications is the urgent need for good quality material to be produced of a consistent and repeatable quality which can be up-scaled in terms of volume while maintaining reproducibly low electrical resistance (Ohms per square).  

A range of timescales for application commercialisation were presented for time to market – with short term goals indicated at between 2-5 years whereas longer term goals looked at 15 years. Discussions confirmed that the UK needs to target applications that can be ready taken up by UK industry and UK-based companies, for economic return-on-investment to the country within the next five years or so.

Dissemination of information was also seen to be key to the rapid adoption of best practice and new knowledge with funding holders actively tasked to disseminate early stage results to accelerate the programmes.

There is also a need to identify industrial champions at an early stage who have the ability to inspire the community generally. In particular, industry partners should be encouraged, financially and otherwise to collaborate, partner or guide early stage feasibility studies normally confined to a single entity.

The ‘bulk’ graphene workshop demonstrated that the UK has some significant strengths upon which to build including: impressive facilities such as the National Graphene Institute and High Value Manufacturing Catapult, an established academic base, production of commercial bulk graphene already in progress, and a significant end-user customer base covering diverse industries such as aerospace and transport, energy, food packaging and water, health and environment.

Key UK weaknesses in ‘bulk’ graphene applications included a need for greater investment to compete with other countries, and the need for improved coordination and networking. Key opportunities in ‘bulk’ graphene however, include formulation and processing expertise as well as equipment, manufacture of added-value products. Key threats were identified as patent blocking and over-emphasis on funding of academic study rather than process and product development.   

Key recommendations in the ‘bulk’ graphene area included: the need for a coordination mechanism for funded research to maximise integration of academic with industrial studies; funding of demonstrator programmes with an emphasis on formulation, processing and large scale batch manufacture and application, to facilitate networking between stakeholders and promote supply chain development and cross-market exploitation; to promote development of measurement and standards, and to promote and integrate international collaboration and commercial exploitation mechanisms.      

Alec Reader, Director at the NanoKTN comments, “The UK is recognised as having a unique position in the graphene sector and it is essential that any policies seek to maintain UK leadership position in the materials research. It is imperative that the innovation supply chain in graphene technologies be strengthened to provide a ready source of new products and services for investors and exploitation industries.”

“However, converting an emerging technology such as graphene into commercial benefit is not a trivial task with early development work being costly and an initial low pay-back until the technology takes off. The NanoKTN plays a vital role working within emerging technology sectors to remove barriers to growth and help stimulate the investment needed to enhance success in these exciting technology areas. We will be working closely with partners in industry, academia and government to commercialise graphene and gain competitive advantage for UK companies and create wealth and jobs.”

For further information about the NanoKTN, please visit www.nanoktn.com or email enquiries@nanoktn.com.

Established by the Technology Strategy Board, the NanoKTN is managed by Centre for Process Innovation Ltd, a leading technology development and consulting company.

About NanoKTN

The NanoKTN facilitates the transfer of knowledge and experience between industry and research, offering companies dealing in small-scale technology access to information on new processes, patents and funding as well as keeping up-to-date with industry regulation. The four broad areas that the NanoKTN focuses on are: Promoting and facilitating knowledge exchange, supporting the growth of UK capabilities, raising awareness of Nanotechnology, and providing thought leadership and input to UK policy and strategy.

About The Technology Strategy Board

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led government body which works to create economic growth by ensuring that the UK is a global leader in innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit www.innovateuk.org.

About Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs)

KTNs https://ktn.innovateuk.org/web/guest/networks have been set up by government, industry and academia to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and experience between industry and the science base. They bring together diverse organisations and provide activities and initiatives that promote the exchange of knowledge and the stimulation of innovation in these communities.

The first KTNs were set up in 2005 and the network continues to grow. They are active in sectors, technologies and market-based areas and they interact strongly with the government’s Technology Programme and overall technology strategy.

About CPI

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is a UK based technology innovation centre and part of the government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult. CPI offers market and technology expertise along with cutting-edge development assets to help its public and private sector clients build and prototype the next generation of products, processes and services quickly and efficiently, and with minimal risk. CPI has the capability to develop products and processes for companies working in the pharma, chemical, energy, transportation and printable electronics markets.

Cutting-edge facilities are manned by commercially experienced scientists and engineers, and are equipped with development laboratories, prototyping facilities and pilot plants that enable clients to prove and scale up processes from the laboratory stage through to commercial reality. CPI also offers a multi-disciplined team who work together on project management, investment and market opportunities to ensure each business fulfils its potential.

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