A new service promises to be the ‘missing link’ between academia and industry to help the UK cash in on ‘wonder material’ graphene.
The service, launched by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at the University of Manchester, will allow companies to understand the properties of the material they are working with in greater detail.
Commercial graphene is available in several forms, including flakes, powder or liquid, each with varying properties. Its properties can be vastly different between companies, or even between different batches from the same manufacturer.
Manufacturers are sometimes unable to verify that the graphene they are working with has the desired properties, and at the moment because the industry is unregulated companies cannot be sure what they are buying.
The new initiative will provide reliable, accurate and consistent measurement for graphene, and help industry scale up the production and application of the material.
“In order for industry to benefit directly from the opportunities of incorporating graphene into new technologies, businesses need to have confidence in the material they are dealing with,” said James Baker, chief executive of Graphene@Manchester, which includes the NGI. “This new nationally run service will enable an accurate understanding of graphene which is still just 14 years young.
“New materials always have a hurdle of quality production, repeatability and functionalisation to overcome. The breadth of expertise and understanding at the National Graphene Institute, in tandem with the National Physical Laboratory’s capability offering accurate material assessment, will be critical to accelerate commercialisation of products and applications.”
Andrew Pollard, science area leader of the Surface Technology Group at the NPL, said the lack of standardised measurements had been “a stumbling block”. He added: “Now we can take the next step. Introducing this unique service, alongside the development of international standards, to the UK’s emerging graphene economy will accelerate the commercialisation of next-generation technologies here in the same country the material was first isolated, enabling graphene to go from the lab to the market”.
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