The Graphene Flagship has much to celebrate and a great deal to look forward to as it rounds the halfway mark and enters the third phase of the ten-year, European Commission funded initiative to bring together academic and industrial researchers and take graphene and related materials from the realm of academic laboratories into European society, generating economic growth, jobs and opportunities.
“The final review of the first core project confirms that the Graphene Flagship is well on track to reach its ambitious goals,” says Graphene Flagship Director Jari Kinaret.
The EC released the results of its review in August following an extensive look at reports and presentations from Graphene Flagship leadership as well as a demonstration of over
20 graphene product prototypes. The reviewers commended the Graphene Flagship for effectively transforming individual research initiatives into a “genuine collaboration towards larger goals” and cited a number of scientific and technical achievements as evidence that the project is moving in the right direction.
“Graphene and related materials are at the centre of an ever-increasing number of initiatives worldwide. With thousands of materials available that can be combined amongst themselves, there is an almost endless set of possibilities available for future investigation,” says Graphene Flagship Science and Technology Officer Andrea Ferrari. “The Graphene Flagship continues to study the properties and uses of these new materials and materials combinations, leading to the development of both new science and new applications.”
In fact, the output of the Graphene Flagship project is quite formidable. From the start of the flagship, consortium members have published over 2,400 scientific papers which have been cited more than 50,000 times. In addition, they have been granted 25 patents related to the Graphene Flagship and launched six new companies. Of the 43 graphene-related products that have been introduced to the market, most are different types of graphene materials or formulations. The technology has been maturing and higher value products such as products utilizing graphene composites and graphene-based photodetectors are being launched.
As demonstrated by its publication output and patent portfolio, the Graphene Flagship is defining the international forefront in its field. Its output includes, for instance, new ways to produce two-dimensional materials and their heterostructures, record-breaking photodetectors, novel sensors, next generation energy storage solutions and advanced composites for uses in aerospace applications. Further details can be found in the Graphene Flagship’s annual reports available at www.graphene-flagship.eu/annual-reports.
Other notable graphene successes include: work towards a high-speed photonic switch for 5G communication technologies, the leading edge of the horizontal rear stabilizer of an Airbus 350 and artificial retina implants to allow blind patients to recover some degree of vision.
Furthermore, a serendipitous discovery by researchers in the Health and Environment Work Package that few-layer graphene flakes kill monocytes—a type of immune cell
responsible for one type of leukemia—could lead to a new type of cancer therapy.
Composites applications are among the most mature markets for graphene, with several commercial products already available from Graphene Flagship partners. More recently, products are being launched in other areas as well. For example, based on research conducted within the Graphene Flagship framework, Emberion launched a fully packaged photodetector module that can detect light in the visible to short-wave infrared ranges. Aimed at industrial applications including spectrometry, gas detection and power measurements, the low-noise, high-sensitivity detectors are now available for Emberion’s customer base. This product is the Flagship’s first commercial launch exploiting graphene’s unique electro-optical properties.
Graphene Flagship events have played a key role in increasing awareness of graphene among academic communities, industries and the general public. Graphene Week, Europe’s leading graphene conference, provides a venue for researchers to present their findings and industry representatives to exhibit their work in the field of graphene and related two dimensional materials. The event, now in its 13th year, attracts 700 participants from 45 countries worldwide and features 190 expert presentations.
Each edition of Graphene Study, the Graphene Flagship’s school for early career researchers, aims to bring together students working on related areas of research with experienced scientists from academia and industry, helping to shape the future of graphene.
The Graphene Flagship is actively engaging in the education of future experts in graphene and related technologies. To this extent, the project has hired over 300 graduate students that are trained by the Flagship and after graduation will take their expertise to European industries, further strengthening the knowledge transfer between academia and industry.
“Research cannot be planned in detail, and we must always maintain a basic research component even when the centre of gravity of the Graphene Flagship moves to higher technology readiness levels,” Kinaret says. “This said, in the coming years the Flagship must increasingly focus on those areas where it has the highest potential to create positive impact in Europe. We must rely on our combined expertise and place our bets to maximize the payoff to our funders, the European tax-payers.”