The European Union will invest €1 billion in developing graphene, a super-conductive material that may revolutionise information technology, it announced today.
It is one of two research initiative to win €1 billion in EU funding for Future and Emerging Technologies. The other is called the Human Brain Project, which will create "the most detailed model of the brain" for both medical and technological research.
Graphene was first created at the University of Manchester by resesearchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov. They found that a lattice of carbon atoms, one atom thick, is extremely strong and highly conductive of heat and electricity. In 2010, Geim and Novoselov won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their research.
Potential applications of graphene include "fast electronic and optical devices, flexible electronics, functional lightweight components and advanced batteries," according a press release announced the funding.
"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," it said. "On the longer term, graphene is expected to give rise to new computational paradigms and revolutionary medical applications such as artificial retinas."
So far, however, producing graphene on an industrial scale has proved elusive.
The €1 billion funding will be split between a consortium of over 100 universities, foundations and private sector research facilities. The consortium is led by Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology and includes the University of Manchester, Lancaster University and the University of Cambridge.
“Although the [initiative] is extremely extensive, it cannot cover all areas. For example, we don’t intend to compete with Korea on graphene screens”, said Professor Jari Kinaret of the Chalmers University of Technology. ”Graphene production, however, is obviously central to our project.”
In December 2011, the UK government announced £50 million in funding for graphene research. The majority of this went towards a dedicated hub at the University of Manchester.