Graphene: Manchester’s Industrial Revolution 2:0?

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As a centre for creativity, Manchester has seen it all. The splitting of the atom, the industrial revolution and the computer were all born in the infamous North West Region. Enter Graphene.

“Graphene has the potential to revolutionise people’s lives” says James Baker, the Graphene Business Director at The University of Manchester.

Graphene was first isolated by Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov – two researchers at The University of Manchester back in 2004. At the time, the potential uses for the 2D material was unknown – but as James explains, a lot has changed since.

“Since (2004) then the graphene and other two-dimensional materials research has expanded across a wide breadth of subjects and disciplines from physics, chemistry, materials science and biomedicine.

“The infrastructure that we have includes over 250 researchers working on graphene and 2D materials as well as institutes such as the National Graphene Institute (NGI), Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (under construction but due to be completed in 2018) and the Graphene NOWNANO Centre for Doctoral Training aims to create a thriving hub in order to take graphene from fundamental science to commercial products”

The National Graphene Institute (NGI) has coined Manchester as ‘Graphene City’ a term used similarly to San Francisco’s Silicon Valley.

Graphene Milestone Infographic. Photograph: UOM

As a exponentially growing city, Manchester continues to make its mark in creative and scientifically innovative pursuits. The NGI, as James underlines, is indispensable in establishing Manchester as Graphene’s spiritual home.

“The need for the NGI is pivotal in cementing Manchester and the UK as the world leader in graphene research and commercialisation. There is a challenge in taking science from the lab and into products and applications – NGI and GEIC are key facilities in achieving this.”

Whilst still in its early stages, Graphene has already shown promise in revolutionising everyday appliances and essentials alongside more complex systems. This has garnered much interest from the private and public sector, with many seeing that regarding Graphene, the future is now.

“Over 80 companies have now partnered with The University of Manchester working on graphene projects and applications. There is a wide variety of industries looking to get involved in graphene researchers as the potential for this material is so diverse.” tells James.

The NGI, which is built on the former site of The Albert Club, a club established for the middle-class German community that were involved in Manchester’s cotton trade – is working to further its industrial heritage in the city. Graphene, James tells, is already being lined up as a material to be used in many of our regular systems.

“Potential applications inlcude water filtration and desalination systems, electronics, sensors, composites-such as incorporating graphene into the body of a car or airplane in order to reduce weight thus making them more efficent, to using graphene coatings in products such as good packinging systems keeping food fresher for longer.

“We are now starting to see graphene products penetrate the market place such as the HEAD tennis racquet, skis, lightbulbs and running shoes.

Whilst there is a long way to go for the installation of Graphene to everyday life – NGI, like the city it is home to – will seemingly grow and continue to innovate for years to come.

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