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  • By: Tom Foley
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 23 July 2021
  • By: Tom Foley
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 23 July 2021

Meet Graphene Week speaker and prize winner Virat Khanna

Khanna won the networking prize at Graphene for Research, Innovation and Collaboration, and will present his research at the live Graphene Week conference this September.

Europe’s leading graphene conference is coming very soon. The live Graphene Week event runs from 20 – 24 Sep 2021, bringing together a diverse range of speakers from industry, academia, enterprise and beyond. In preparation for the big event, we took the opportunity to get to know our speakers and ask them why they’re so excited about Graphene Week.

Today, meet Virat Khanna, networking prize winner at Graphene for Research, Innovation and Collaboration in September 2020, who now develops metal-matrix composites with graphene to reinforce building materials for smart homes, vehicles and more.

First off, please can you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?

I am an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering department at Maharaja Agrasen University Himachal Pradesh, India. I have worked with graphene and composites for the last two and a half years, so I’m fairly new to the field.

Why should people be excited about Graphene Week?

It’s the biggest platform to meet and learn from people interested in graphene and layered materials. When I attended last year, I made so many new connections, and I am still in touch with lots of them today.

I am even collaborating on a project with people I met at the Graphene for Research, Innovation and  Collaboration event last year.

Can you tell me a bit about the prize you won?

On the second day of Graphene for Research, Innovation and Collaboration, I won a prize for my networking skills – for my insightful and thought-provoking questions to the speakers.

It was such a wonderful experience, being introduced in such a warm and positive way to a huge, welcoming community, working on such a noble goal: taking graphene out of the lab and into industry.

What are you researching?

Primarily, I work with aluminium. It’s very light, so it’s extremely useful and a widespread construction material, particularly in automobiles, household applications and aeroplanes. I am enhancing aluminium’s mechanical properties with graphene and various different nanoparticles.

I use a dry milling technique that improves the material’s properties, like hardness and compressive strength.

How did you first get started?

I was fascinated when I heard about the experiments at Graphene Flagship partner the University of Manchester – simply using sticky tape to exfoliate graphene. That was when I knew I wanted to pursue the field. I started studying papers from top graphene researchers, and of my own accord, began working on graphene under my supervisor in 2018.

What are you going to present at Graphene Week?

My new paper about aligned graphene nanoparticles. The properties of a composite depend on its architecture. The way we arrange graphene on the surface of its substrate affects the resulting properties of the material.

If we align the graphene layers, meaning that all the atoms and bonds would be in-line if you looked at it from a top-down perspective, we can make graphene that is extremely thick. Then, if we introduce aligned graphene into a composite material, we can significantly improve its physical properties, like the durability and mechanical strength.

What’s something you’re personally looking forward to at Graphene Week?

I’m so excited to present the work I’m proud of on the big stage, in front of all the key speakers that inspired me. I’m also really looking forward to listening to the speakers to find out about their latest research.

It’s really exciting. Graphene is so widespread, and there are so many potential applications. I really can’t wait to see what the new ones are!

Visit the Graphene Week 2021 page to learn more and sign up.

Virat Khanna

Virat Khanna won the networking prize at the last year's Graphene Flagship online event and will present his work at Graphene Week 2021

Author bio

Tom Foley
Tom Foley

Science Writer and Communications Coordinator for the Graphene Flagship