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Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC):  supporting graphene commercialisation

Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC): supporting graphene commercialisation



Graphene innovation set to change lives

Graphene will soon reach a commercial ‘tipping point’ as the two-dimensional material becomes embedded into a wide range of products, says James Baker, CEO, Graphene@Manchester, The University of Manchester

May 2020

Abu Dhabi is set to be among the first cities in the world to benefit from graphene – the world’s first two-dimensional material – as the Emirate looks to build an even more sustainable future.

Graphene was first isolated by researchers at The University of Manchester and has sparked a revolution in materials science and has become an icon of UK innovation.

Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms that creates a honeycomb sheet and is an incredibly strong and conductive material so it can be used in a wide range of applications, from aerospace engineering to water filtration, digital electronics and biomedicine.

The University of Manchester is now pioneering a model of innovation that has a global reach – this is the era of the ‘Graphene City’, a collaborative community similar to Silicon Valley but dispersed across the world. This includes Abu Dhabi, where Masdar and Khalifa University of Science and Technology are partnering with Graphene@Manchester on research and application development. This unique ecosystem comprises world leading expertise, including Nobel-prize winning scientists such as Andre Geim plus another 350 colleagues dedicated to graphene–related research and innovation.

Baker: new vision

Baker: new vision

This accelerated lab-to-market commitment to commercialising science relies on close collaboration with pioneering partners – such as those based in Abu Dhabi. Our partnership with Masdar and Khalifa University of Science and Technology supports our own research and innovation community at The University of Manchester.

Masdar, a leader in sustainable developments, also had the foresight and belief to invest in one of our flagship facilities, the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) which directly supports graphene commercialisation.

The GEIC, which is housed in the purpose-built Masdar Building and based at The University of Manchester, has the capability to operate at the kilogram and square metre scale which allows us to rapidly develop and prototype industrial scale applications with a ‘fail fast, learn fast’ approach.

And I believe we are now reaching a commercial ‘tipping point’ as we begin to see graphene and associated two dimensional materials become embedded into a wide range of products. People will talk less about graphene as a material in its own right and more about experiencing the benefits of graphene and how it is supporting, for example, a greener and more sustainable world.

For communities in Abu Dhabi and the wider region I expect this will transform strategically important sectors in a number of ways, including:

Construction: the region is making ambitious capital investments which is driving the construction and infrastructure sectors. The use of graphene in concrete, for example, can make this building material stronger, more water-resistant and eco-friendly – it is estimated that 60m tonnes of CO2 a year could be saved by using graphene-enhanced concrete in the Middle East and Africa.

Water filtration: Abu Dhabi produces much of its potable water supply (including drinking water) from desalinated seawater from the Arabian Gulf, so water filtration technology is of huge interest. Graphene-based membranes have been described as the perfect barrier as they’re capable of separating two liquids to an exceptional degree and can also block even the smallest atom, helium, from passing through. Our applied research will enable future filtration systems to precisely control water permeation – from ultrafast permeation to complete blocking

Transport of the future: Abu Dhabi is looking to pioneer transport of the future such as ‘Hyperloop’, a super high-speed transport system. Graphene has many applications in the mobility sector, from the ‘lightweighting’ of vehicles to improving the performance of electrified powertrains or high-tech transport infrastructure

Energy Storage: as Abu Dhabi looks to adopt even more sustainable energy solutions it should be remembered that graphene has a very high surface area and has the highest theoretical electrical conductivity of any material - as such, it is an ideal candidate for improving energy storage devices such as batteries and supercapacitors.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Baker is CEO Graphene@Manchester, The University of Manchester, where he is responsible for the National Graphene Institute (NGI) and the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), and is developing the industrial partnerships and collaborations to accelerate the commercialisation opportunities for graphene.

Baker is a chartered engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and was a keynote speaker at the World Future Energy Summit / Sustainability Week in Abu Dhabi, in January.




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