Irish nanoscience institute CRANN is to play a leading role in a major research project that has been awarded €1bn from the European Commission to explore the commercial potential of graphene. It has been described as a ‘wonder material’ with the potential to transform the future of manufacturing in areas such as aviation and IT.
The EU Commission has committed €1bn to the Graphene Flagship project, making it one of the largest ever research projects funded in the history of the EU.
CRANN, which is based at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), is to play a leading role in the project, which will involve 126 academics and industry groups from 17 countries carrying out research over 10 years.
The aim of the research will be to investigate the unique properties of graphene, a carbon-based material that really came to the scientific fore as a result of experiments carried out by Prof Andre Geim and Prof Kostya Novoselov at the University of Manchester in 2004 when they discovered the material’s potential.
The two scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2010 for their experiments centred on graphene.
200 times stronger than steel
Graphene itself consists of a sheet of carbon atoms, just one atom thick or about one hundred-thousandth the width of one human hair. It is believed to be 200 times stronger than steel.
According to the European Commission, graphene is set to become the ‘wonder material’ of the 21st century, with its potential applications including replacing silicon in ICT products and lighter and more energy efficient cars and aeroplanes.
CRANN’s Prof Jonathan Coleman, who is also a principal investigator at TCD’s School of Physics, will be a deputy leader on one of the graphene research projects.
The group will be working with partners in Spain and other member states to research methods of growing graphene for the first time on a range of surfaces, including commercial silicon wafers.
CRANN will also be hiring three new researchers to work on the project.
Describing graphene as "one of the most exciting materials of our lifetime", Coleman said it has the potential to answer many questions.
“Technology, energy and aviation companies worldwide are racing to discover the full potential of graphene. Our research will be an important element in helping to realise that potential," he said.
Ireland’s Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock, TD, also welcomed the news about CRANN’s involvement in the research.
"The fact that Ireland is at the very core of this project, the largest ever research project in the history of the EU, is evidence of the tremendous esteem in which our scientific researchers are held and of the direct relevance of their work to Europe’s enterprise and societal development," said Sherlock.
Graphene concept image via Shutterstock