The European commission has chosen Graphene Flagship Consortium (GFC) as one of Europe’s first ten-year, €1 billion (~$1.365 billion) FET [future and emerging technologies] flagships. The consortium is led by Nokia Corp. and its mission is to take graphene and related layered materials from academic laboratories to society, revolutionize multiple industries and create economic growth and new jobs in Europe. The org will get the funds in the course of ten years.
“Nokia is proud to be involved with this project, and we have deep roots in the field – we first started working with graphene already in 2006. Since then, we have come to identify multiple areas where this material can be applied in modern computing environments. We have done some very promising work so far, but I believe the greatest innovations have yet to be discovered,” said Henry Tirri, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Nokia.
Graphene As New Technology
Measuring only one atom thick, graphene is classed as a 2D structure with super-useful properties. While thin, it is also the strongest material ever tested, having a breaking strength 300 times greater than steel. Graphene has been subject to a scientific explosion since the groundbreaking experiments on the novel material less than ten years ago, recognized by the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 to professor Andrey Geim and professor Konstantin Novoselov, at the University of Manchester. Graphene’s unique combination of superior properties makes it a credible starting point for new disruptive technologies in a wide range of fields.
Key applications for graphene are, for instance, fast electronic and optical devices, flexible electronics, functional lightweight component and advanced batteries. Examples of new products enabled by graphene technologies include fast, flexible and strong consumer electronics such as electronic paper and bendable personal communication devices, and lighter and more energy efficient airplanes. On the longer term, graphene is expected to give rise to new computational paradigms and revolutionary medical applications such as artificial retinas.
“Graphene happens to be an area where we, in Europe, have all the important players in the value chain who are ready to use it in applications. From that perspective, this is a very efficient and promising way of doing research investments for Europe,” added Mr. Tirri.
Graphene As New Driver for Economy
The GFC (graphene flagship consortium) currently consists of 74 partners from the EU, from many different sectors. Nokia is flying the flag for the electronics corner, as well as the mobile one, with dreams of improving the industry. Nokia has been working with nanotechnologies since 2006, mostly from the Nokia research center based in Cambridge, UK, and also with teams in Finland and Russia.
“During the last 18 months we have seen a tremendous effort to build collaboration between European academia and industry. Now we have all the ingredients in place to be globally successful. We believe that new two-dimensional materials will have an impact on industrial value chains in many ways, creating opportunities for new products, services and economic growth,” said Tapani Ryhänen, head of the sensor and material technologies laboratory at Nokia.
According to figures compiled by CambridgeIP, a UK-based patent consultancy, Asia and the USA are leading in terms of the number of patent publications, even though graphene was pioneered in Britain. The goal of Nokia and several other companies is to reverse the trend and start making commercial applications from graphene in Europe. Moreover, some of the company’s researchers believe that breakthrough technologies like graphene will help to bring the manufacturing back to the EU.
“Not only does creating a graphene research consortium open up new research possibilities, it will also create work and jobs across all of Europe. […] When we talk about graphene, we have reached a tipping point. We’re now looking at the beginning of a graphene revolution. Before this point in time, we figured out a way to manufacture cheap iron that led to the industrial revolution. Then there was silicon. Now, it’s time for graphene.”said Jani Kivioja, research leader at Nokia research center.
The Grand Plan
From the start in 2013 the Graphene Flagship will coordinate 126 academic and industrial research groups in 17 European countries with an initial 30-month-budget of 54 million euro. The consortium will be extended with another 20-30 groups through an open call, issued soon after the start of the initiative, which will further strengthen the engineering aspects of the flagship. The flagship will be coordinated by Chalmers University of Technology based in Gothenburg, Sweden. Director is professor Jari Kinaret who will lead the research activities together with the leaders of the 15 work packages. The management team is supported by a strategic advisory council.
During the 30 month ramp-up phase, the Graphene Flagship will focus on the area of communications, concentrating on ICT and on the physical transport sector, and supporting applications in the fields of energy technology and sensors. After the ramp-up phase, the flagship will grow to full size and include many new groups and activities. The details of flagship implementation after the ramp-up phase are still open and form a part of the discussions on the Horizon 2020 research program of the European Union.
“Although the flagship is extremely extensive, it cannot cover all areas. For example, we don’t intend to compete with Korea on graphene screens. Graphene production, however, is obviously central to our project,” said Jari Kinaret.