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Major Chinese Investment in Graphene Helps Develop Lighter Planes

Aircraft and high-speed trains that are lighter with improved performance will be delivered by a key Chinese investment in graphene research.

Graphene Strain (Image Credit: University of Manchester)

A five-year collaborative research project will be executed by the Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Materials (BIAM) and the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at The University of Manchester.

The study will concentrate on composites with improved performance in the field of mechanical, electric conductive, and thermal conductive behavior. It will also focus on the compatibility of the matrix materials and graphene. This research has the potential to introduce the applications of graphene in varied components and materials in the aerospace sector. It will also help to improve the performance and save weight.

The research will also influence aircraft, high-speed trains, and industrial equipment, replacing the use of conventional materials.

The deal was announced at the opening of the European Science Open Forum in Manchester by Professor Robert Young, who heads the research project at The University of Manchester.

Professor Young, speaking at a session called ’Science and Aviation’, organized in partnership with Manchester Airport and Hainan Airlines, will outline how graphene could revolutionize the future of trains and planes.

The announcement was made in parallel to a senior delegation from Manchester - including a Nobel-prize winning scientist who was responsible for isolating graphene - being in Beijing in order to promote the city as a global destination for inward investment and tourism.

Graphene has become a part of the recently developed Chinese five-year plan, and the country is also beginning to develop improvements in its domestic civil aerospace industry and also enhance their expertise of materials.

This new project will go on until 2020, and it will include collaborative research on graphene projects, strengthening the exchange of personnel between Beijing and Manchester and the ties in graphene technology.

This collaborative effort is an extension of a project that started in 2015. This earlier project focused on developing graphene composites using metals including aluminum. This extended version of the project was based on the success of the partnership.

Several other UK companies, particularly in aerospace, are expected to become directly involved during the progress of the project.

The relationship between BIAM and The University of Manchester warms up quickly. We had a very good communication on the first collaborative project. Now a long term partnership would benefit us to broaden the research area on graphene materials, to enhance the collaborative research, as well as to exchange experience and expertise on graphene.

Dr Shaojiu Yan, Principal Investigator of Graphene Projects, BIAM

Professor Young said: “BIAM have a rapidly developing research programme on graphene composites and we are looking forward to pooling our expertise with them to facilitate the use of these materials in aerospace applications”.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "It is firmly established that Manchester has many distinctive strengths which make the city - and help make the North of England as a whole - competitive on the international stage.

"This partnership with the Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Materials will not only go a long way towards finding hugely significant commercial applications for graphene research, it will further strengthen ties between Manchester and China - ties which are ever more important as China emerges as a key player in the global economy. It is another vote of confidence in Manchester.”

The very first non-stop flight service from any place outside of London to mainland China was launched by Hainan Airlines in June. The route has been tipped to help forge much closer business and academic links between Manchester and the Far East in the future.

Links between Manchester and China have never been stronger and this partnership is the perfect example of how international connectivity can drive collaboration and innovation. Science is an important sector for Manchester and we are committed to playing a key role in driving its growth by linking this city with key markets around the world. The launch of Hainan Airlines' direct service to Beijing has already made a significant contribution to forging closer ties between Manchester and China and we look forward to developing the relationship further.

Ken O'Toole, CEO of Manchester Airport

Video: How Can Graphene be Used in Planes? | The University of Manchester

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