When you think of graphene, you think of a new super-material that dreams, and the future, are made of.
Today, ‘the future’ just got a little more present, thanks to news that the Graphene Flagship Consortium, a collection of industry and academic partners – including Nokia – looking to improve the world using graphene, was chosen by the European Union for the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) program, triggering an investment of 1 billion euros that will be spread over the next 10 years.
Measuring only one atom thick, graphene is classed as a 2D structure with super-useful properties. While thin, it’s also the strongest material ever tested, having a breaking strength 300 times greater than steel. Oh, and it’s also the lightest and best intrinsic conductor, too.
The 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 realistic dreams of improving the industry.
When asked about why Nokia is researching graphene and why this consortium is vital, Henry Tirri, EVP, CTO of Nokia explained:
“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’ve done some very promising work so far, but I believe the greatest innovations have yet to be discovered.”
“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.”
Tapani Ryhänen, Head of the Sensor and Material Technologies Laboratory at Nokia also told us that:
“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.”
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.
What is graphene?
This EU consortium is designed to boost research opportunities and to put the EU right in the heart of development. Jani Kivioja, Research Leader at Nokia Research Center, explains that it also has wider implications:
“Not only does creating a graphene research consortium open up new research possibilities, it will also create work and jobs across all of Europe. This kind of research is also an investment to the people that live within the EU, from an economy perspective.
“Globalisation has taken a lot of manufacturing out of the EU, whereas many countries still rely on industrial manufacturing. There is a huge opportunity to bring manufacturing back here, while using new materials and at the same time keeping manufacturing industries competitive,” continues Tapani.
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Although graphene has received lots of media attention over the past few weeks, especially in the UK, as Henry mentioned, Nokia has been working with nanotechnologies since 2006, mostly from the Nokia Research Centre based in Cambridge, UK, and also with teams in Finland and Russia. You could say that we’ve been involved from the beginning, and there’s a good reason, Jani says:
“When we talk about graphene, we’ve 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.”
Tapani notes that we shouldn’t expect to see everything made out of graphene. Instead, it’s all about improving existing materials and products to make them even better than before:
“Making products out of graphene will definitely happen across lots of different industries. By introducing people from different markets together within the EU-based consortium, we can begin to make real-world applications that benefit us all.
“Really, this type of technology has radically improved the properties of many materials that can be used in our industry. It was discovered in the EU, and we’re very proud to have been involved from the very early years and now to be participating in the consortium. We have a very functional research team in place that can do world-class research with our partners.
“We have kept our eyes open, and believe that this will bring immediate impact to our products over the coming years in some way or another.”