2016 has been an important year for the Graphene Flagship. In April, the 30-month Ramp-Up Phase of the Flagship under the 7th Framework Programme ended, marking the transition of the Flagship to Core 1, the first two-year phase of the steady-state funding under the Horizon 2020 Programme, which will run until October 2023. In this time, the Graphene Flagship has grown to include over 150 Partners, over 50 Associate Members and over 15 Partnering Projects, with new industrial Associate Members joining monthly.
As the Graphene Flagship evolves and graphene technologies mature, the proportion of industrial partners within the Graphene Flagship keeps increasing. The changing focus of the Flagship – from explorative research to applied innovation – matches the aim to draw graphene-based technologies from the laboratory to the real word over the 10-year lifetime of the Flagship. Andrea Ferrari (University of Cambridge, UK), Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and Chair of its Management Panel, stated “The increasing number of industrial partners and associated members joining the Flagship is proof that we are following the right path to bring graphene and related materials from the lab to the factory floor."
The real-world technologies being currently developed by Flagship researchers include some of the most significant emerging technologies for solutions to global challenges, as determined by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The WEF’s summer report of the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2016 identified ten technologies that are poised to transform the modern world and change the way we think about healthcare, transport, power and connectivity. Jari Kinaret (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden), Director of the Graphene Flagship, said “I find it very exciting that the World Economic Forum has arrived at similar conclusions to us regarding the key areas for technological and societal impact. Already at this early stage of its voyage, the Graphene Flagship has produced key results such as ultrafast photodetectors that enable even faster internet connections and more efficient ways to harvest, store and deliver energy.”
Finding stable and sustainable solutions for energy generation and storage particularly important due to climate change and the global increase in power consumption. The WEF identified Next Generation Batteries and Solar Cells as emerging technologies. The Graphene Flagship’s Work Packages Energy Generation and Energy Storage are exploring ways in which graphene and related materials can be used to improve energy technologies for sustainability and scale. Highlights include the demonstration that an MoS2 buffer layer can be used to extend the lifetime of perovskite solar cells, as well as flexible, all-solid-state microsupercapacitors developed using electrochemically exfoliated graphene.
Such microsupercapacitors could soon find use as on-chip power sources for devices incorporating sensing and communication capabilities. Graphene and related materials have great potential to provide different types of sensors and the means to power them for the Internet of Things. From sensing proteins and other biological molecules to real-time environmental monitoring and gas sensing, the electrical, mechanical and optical properties of graphene and related materials are being explored by the Sensors Work Package for a range of applications. The WEF predicts that nanoscale sensors will lead to an Internet of NanoThings, potentially enabling continuous sensing inside the human body.
The WEF report also identified the growing catalogue of two dimensional and layered materials as its own emerging technology. Truly 2d materials, such as graphene, hexagonal boron nitride and phosphorene, along with layered materials such as the transition metal dichalcogenides, have given researchers a new toolbox with which to develop new technologies. Not only are graphene- and related-materials-based technologies expected to boost existing technologies, but the potentials of these materials are playgrounds for innovative ideas previously unthinkable. Kari Hjelt (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden), is Head of Innovation for the Graphene Flagship. “We have started to witness the potential of graphene-based technologies to create market disruptions and transformational innovations. Graphene has the unique capability to enhance multiple product attributes concurrently, which is lately nicely demonstrated in the different applications for composite materials, such as the graphene motorcycle helmet from the Italian Institute of Technology, and the conductive graphene resin used in chemical plants developed by Avanzare,” he said.
The WEF report indicates that the Graphene Flagship are on the right track. Ferrari said “We are pleased to see that key areas identified in the Graphene Flagship Science and Technology Roadmap for graphene and related materials are considered amongst the top emerging technology areas by the World Economic Forum.” The next year will see the planning for the next phase of the Graphene Flagship, Core 2. “In the next phase we will focus to combine technology push and market pull by increasing technology readiness level together with our industry stakeholders. We also continue our quest to move from materials research towards component and system level integration,” added Hjelt.
Looking towards the future, Kinaret has a clear idea of the next steps. “We are now strengthening our efforts and I expect new breakthroughs in for instance biomedical applications and integration of two-dimensional materials with more conventional technologies,” he said. The Graphene Flagship enters 2017 in an excellent position to further ideas and innovation in the graphene family.