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Jose A. Garrido’s vision: graphene bioelectronic eye implants

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Thursday, December 12, 2019
Jose A. Garrido is an ICREA Research Professor and leader of the Advanced Electronic Materials and Devices group at Graphene Flagship partner ICN2, in Barcelona. He is also the Deputy Leader of the Graphene Flagship's Biomedical Technologies Work Package, and he has a vision: a world in which doctors can cure diseases and disabilities using biomedical implants enabled by novel electronic materials like graphene.

His pioneering work on graphene-enabled retinal implants, which aim to provide artificial vision to patients with retinal degeneration, is internationally recognised – Garrido and his collaborators have recently been awarded a €1 million grant by the la Caixa Foundation to fund their research. He plans to use the money to enable an ambitious three-year project to design the next generation of retinal prostheses using graphene-based electrodes.

I spoke with Garrido at the Graphene Connect event in Barcelona, this November, and gained some fantastic insights into the work he's doing and his ideas for the future of medical bioelectronic devices.

What motivated you to start working on retinal implants?


In general, I'm very interested in merging electronics with biology to solve health problems. It started before trying to solve vision problems – in general, I've always been interested in how we could use electronics to help patients. But years ago, some people I was working with in France made me start thinking about the problem of blindness, and how it affects people. I thought that this would be a good bench test for our technologies, and a great platform for me to try to understand the challenges of restoring vision. I wanted to investigate how graphene electronics could solve these challenges.

Why use graphene?

Well, firstly, I started with other materials. Years ago, I was working with materials that are also chemically resistant, such as semiconductors like gallium nitride, and then I moved to diamond because it was stable as well. However, for each of these materials, we always had some sort of trouble! Either the flexibility was a problem, the material was not sensitive enough, or we couldn't inject sufficient charge. But when graphene came, everything changed. The fact is, we haven't found a reason not to work with graphene yet. It has a combination of properties that make it very attractive.

What makes graphene so good for biomedical devices?

Firstly, for this application, I believe the ability to integrate graphene with flexible technologies is the most important. You need to integrate it into a flexible substrate and do all the fabrication and microfabrication required to produce your device.

It also needs to be able to interface with the nervous system, to stimulate and to monitor electrical activity. In order to have a proper interface with the nervous system, you can't just have either recording or simulation. You need both to enable bidirectional communication. So far, graphene is very good at stimulating and recording nervous tissue. We can easily integrate it into flexible substrates, and it's a durable material when exposed to a harsh environment.

Could you explain to me how the retinal implants function in layman's terms?

We're trying to help patients who have degenerated photoreceptors. This happens in several neurodegenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration. But this degeneration does not mean that the whole retina is degenerated. There are some parts of the retina that are still intact, and those are still connected to the optical nerve.

One solution is to have photoreceptors which stimulate the intact part of the retina, and then transfer that information through the optical nerve to the visual cortex.

We're taking a different approach. We don't use the photoreceptors – instead, we plan to implant an array of graphene-based electrodes on the retina. These electrodes mimic photoreceptor stimulation with an electrical impulse. It works like this: an image is captured with an external camera, then this information is sent wirelessly to the implant, received in the form of pulses applied to each of the electrodes on the implant. This effectively copies the function of the photoreceptors and should allow the patient to see a pixelated image.

What would you say are the challenges going forward?

When it comes to integrating graphene, we're at a pre-industrial level. But over the last four years, thanks to the Graphene Flagship, among other projects, we've gone from being research-orientated to actually applying that research. We have pre-industrial device prototypes, and we do fabrication in cleanrooms – the same cleanrooms we use for research. For me, I think that that integration and demonstration of the prototypes is not the challenge. The challenge is industrialisation.

How can we jump from what we do in a pre-industrial cleanroom to large-scale fabrication? Who is going to mass-produce these technologies? Right now, there's no one in Europe who can do this type of production on such a large scale, with the required levels of standardisation.

That's the main challenge for a lot of applications of graphene, and we're all suffering from the same problems. The Graphene Flagship have now realised this, and that's why they have launched the Standardisation and Validation services, and will soon launch the Experimental Pilot Line. This is a very important effort, but it will have to be matched by industry.

What ultimately led to you being awarded the grant?

Competition was very tough, I can tell you! They really valued the multidisciplinary team that we put together – it's really unique to have such a strong team with such different backgrounds, sharing the costs and responsibilities. Each of us was an expert in our field, and we just really wanted to work together. Experts in optical imaging were from ICFO, experts in electronics and ASIC design came from IFAE, clinicians were from the Barraquer Foundation, and the Paris Vision Institute provided experts in retina electrophysiology.

How are you going to use the €1 million grant?

We need to develop some understanding of the challenges. The challenges are not only at the interface with the tissue – there are challenges with the wireless transmission, with the design of the specialized chip controlling the whole system, and with the powering of the device. How do you power a device that small?

This grant is going to be crucial to bring together such a multidisciplinary team. A team that knows about optics, wireless transmission, neural interfaces, materials science and biology. Of course, we're going to divide the pie into many pieces. But we hope that when we put these pieces together, the project will be a great success.

Finally, where do you see graphene-enabled retinal implants in 10 years?

In 10 years, the project should be a commercial success! I think that in just three years, we should have demonstrated some of the hypotheses that we are proposing now. Without doubt, there's a huge amount of work to be done if we want to help patients to recover part of their lost vision, not to mention the promise of a complete recovery – but our technology will also lead to significant improvements in many other fields where medical neural implants are currently used, including brain surgery, epilepsy monitoring, and movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

Tags:  Bioelectronics  electronic materials  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Healthcare  Jose A. Garrido 

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Airbus-Backed European Project Could Produce Safer Aircraft

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, December 9, 2019
If ice accumulates on the wings, propellers or other surfaces of an aircraft, control can be dangerously inhibited. Thermoelectric ice protection systems prevent this from happening, using an ultra-thin conductive coating layer to generate heat when current is applied. Could existing technology for this application be improved? The graphene-based thermoelectric ice protection system (GICE) Spearhead Project, announced by the Graphene Flagship, is set to advance the technology readiness of graphene in thermoelectric ice protection systems.

Graphene is an ideal material to keep aircraft parts ice free, without affecting aerodynamic properties. Based on the work performed by various partners of the Graphene Flagship during earlier research phases, graphene-based ice protection systems are already in development, albeit at a low technology readiness level.

The goal of the newly launched GICE project is to advance these technologies to higher maturity by developing three technology demonstrators for specific use cases needed by key industrial partners, including Airbus and Sonaca.

Airbus is the largest European aerospace OEM and Sonaca is a strategic tier-1 supplier of components for Airbus, providing the ideal launch pad for the commercialisation of graphene-based ice protection systems.

"Thermoelectric ice protection technologies currently under investigation are based on carbon black, carbon rovings, carbon nanotubes, or metallic heating wires," explained Fabien Dezitter, Icing expert at Airbus and GICE leader. "They all have advantages and disadvantages with respect to each other, but we expect that the graphene-based solution proposed by GICE could bundle most advantages of all thermoelectric solutions.

"Advantages of graphene include flexibility of integration into complex 3D structures, low weight, reduced thermo-mechanical stress during heating cycles, higher efficiency with lower power consumption, no oxidation and chemical inertness and facile integrability into carbon fibre reinforced polymers, thermoplastics, or glass fibre reinforced polymers."

Graphene in these systems also enables precise control of heat generation to ensure the ice protection system is always at its optimum performance. These beneficial properties will help the GICE project improve the technology readiness of graphene in ice protection systems, with the final product based on the knowledge generated in the manufacturing of three demonstrators for real use cases, moving toward safer and environmentally friendlier flights.

Qualification and certification processes for new technologies in the aerospace sector are slow, which is why the GICE project endeavours to bring graphene ice protection systems up to technology readiness level six — with a system prototype demonstration tested in an icing wind tunnel by the end of the Spearhead Project in 2023.

Tags:  Airbus  carbon nanotubes  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Sonaca  thermoelectric 

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Graphene Flagship partners up European academia and industry to make lighter composites for planes and cars

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Friday, December 6, 2019

The Graphene Flagship brought together top European researchers and companies to discuss the most disruptive ways graphene could enhance composites used in the aerospace, automotive and energy industries. The multidisciplinary team involved researchers from academic institutions, business enterprises such as Graphene Flagship Partners Nanesa and Avanzare, and large transportation end-user industries, such as Graphene Flagship Partners Airbus and Fiat. 

They showed that integrating graphene and related materials (GRMs) into fibre-reinforced composites (FRCs) has great potential to improve weight and strength, and helps to overcome the bottlenecks limiting the applications of these composites in planes, cars, wind turbines and more. Nowadays, the transportation industry is responsible for nearly one-third of global energy demand, and it is the major source of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas. Graphene Flagship scientists are therefore continually trying to develop new materials to lower fuel usage and CO2 emissions, helping to mitigate environmental damage and climate change.

Graphene-integrated composites are an example of lighter materials with great potential for use in vehicle frameworks. They are constructed by introducing graphene sheets, a few billionths of a metre thick, into hierarchical fibre composites as a nano-additives. Hierarchical fibre composites are a type of composite material in which components of different sizes are combined in a controlled way to significantly improve the mechanical properties. They typically consist of micro- or mesoscopic carbon fibres, a few millionths of a metre thick, attached to a polymer matrix, and they are already used as building materials to make vehicles of all shapes and sizes.

Graphene's high aspect ratio, high flexibility and mechanical strength enable it to enhance the strength of weak points in these composites, such as at the interface between two different components. Its tunable surface chemistry also means that interactions with the carbon fibre and polymer matrix can be adjusted as needed. The fibre, polymer matrix and graphene layers all work together to distribute mechanical stress, resulting in a material with improved strength and other beneficial properties.

There are many challenges to consider. For instance, planes experience temperature changes between 20 °C and -40 °C every time they take off and land, with huge differences in pressure and humidity. Graphene-integrated composites therefore need to withstand water condensing and even freezing inside the fuselage. They also need to endure lightning strikes, which happen several times per month, so the conductive properties of graphene must be harnessed to create an electrically conductive framework that resists electromagnetic impulses. In cars, new structural materials must be able to withstand crash tests and be lightweight enough to ensure fuel efficiency. Graphene Flagship researchers are also investigating conductive materials to replace circuitry in car dashboards.

Researchers and end-users come together
Graphene Flagship partners at Queen Mary University and the National Graphene Institute, UK, FORTH-Hellas, Greece, CNR, Italy, and Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, collaborated with researchers at the University of Turin, the University of Trento and KET-LAB, Italy, and the University of Patras, Greece, to provide perspectives from the research community. They worked with scientists at Graphene Flagship partner companies Nanesa, Italy, and Avanzare, Spain, to review the technological viability of graphene-incorporated FRCs.

Francesco Bertocchi, co-author of the paper and President of Nanesa, believes that graphene-incorporated FRCs are indeed feasible for vehicle design, and has created new composites with many essential properties for the transportation industries. "Thanks to the Graphene Flagship, Nanesa has worked in close synergy with many partners to create many different prototypes. These include properties such as flame retardancy, water vapor absorption barrier, high electrical and thermal conductivity, EMI shielding. We also integrated thermo-resistive systems for de-icing and anti-icing ," he says.

Graphene Flagship Partners Airbus and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, world leading aerospace and automotive industries, evaluated the impact of graphene-incorporated FRCs on the aerospace and automotive industries and assessed their commercial viability.

Tamara Blanco-Varela, co-author and materials & processes engineer at Airbus, explains that Airbus is working hard to make these materials viable for use in new aircraft models. "We all know that the aeronautical sector is very challenging for the introduction of new materials or technologies. Airbus is committed to making graphene-related materials fly as soon as possible, and a step-by-step approach is being set up," she says. By selecting 'quick-win' applications with immediate benefits to the aerospace industry, she anticipates that graphene-integrated FRCs will reach the market soon. "One example is using these materials for anti- and de-icing purposes in aeroplanes, for which Airbus will be leading activities targeting commercial exploitation of this technology. We are hoping for it to reach a high maturity level, with a target readiness level between five and six, in the next few years."

Brunetto Martorana, co-author and researcher at Graphene Flagship partner Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, adds: "The interesting structural properties of graphene have opened an interesting window for designing novel light composites." He explains that new lightweight composite materials do not necessarily need to be lower in strength and introduce safety issues. "New approaches must be found to enhance the 'crashworthiness' of composites – and graphene composites may be able to fill that role," he continues. Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles have now committed to the commercialization of new composite materials, and will be leading a new initiative to bring this technology to market."

An uplifting outlook
"The Graphene Flagship provides a stable, clear, long-lasting partnership for different partners to work together. They all started their collaboration as part of our Composites Work Package", comments Vincenzo Palermo, Graphene Flagship Vice-Director and lead author of the paper. "The Graphene Flagship pushes all partners to have frequent interactions, with regular meetings – like in this case, partners who begun working on graphene with different motivations have come together to address common challenges," he says.

Costas Galiotis, the Graphene Flagship's Composites Work Package leader, expresses that this collaboration has been highly valuable. "This a comprehensive review of the work undertaken in the Graphene Flagship, and elsewhere, to confirm that the addition of GRMs provides benefits to many applications in the aerospace, automotive, energy and leisure industries."

Galiotis expresses particular interest in the review's analysis of the best ways to process GRMs into composites, the effect of this on the overall composite performance, and the challenges scientists face in the search for high performance composites. "Overall, I think this is a timely review article for the composites field, which should be read with interest by all parties involved with composite development and usage," he concludes.

 

Andrea C. Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and Chair of its Management Panel, comments: "This paper shows the leadership of large corporations and small enterprises, all partners of the Graphene Flagship, in taking graphene composites to the market in the next few years. This yet again shows the steady progress of the Graphene Flagship along its technology and innovation roadmap."

Tags:  Aerospace  Airbus  Andrea C. Ferrari  Automotive  Avanzare  Brunetto Martorana  composites  Costas Galiotis  Fiat-Chrysler  Francesco Bertocchi  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Nanesa  Tamara Blanco-Varela  Vincenzo Palermo 

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Smog-eating graphene composite reduces atmospheric pollution

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Graphene Flagship partners the University of Bologna, Politecnico di Milano, CNR, NEST, Italcementi HeidelbergCement Group, the Israel Institute of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology, and the University of Cambridge have developed a graphene-titania photocatalyst that degrades up to 70% more atmospheric nitrogen oxides (NOx) than standard titania nanoparticles in tests on real pollutants.

Atmospheric pollution is a growing problem, particularly in urban areas and in less developed countries. According to the World Health Organization, one out of every nine deaths can be attributed to diseases caused by air pollution. Organic pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and volatile compounds, are the main cause of this, and they are mostly emitted by vehicle exhausts and industry.

To address the problem, researchers are continually on the hunt for new ways to remove more pollutants from the atmosphere, and photocatalysts such as titania are a great way to do this. When titania is exposed to sunlight, it degrades nitrogen oxides – which are very harmful to human health – and volatile organic compounds present at the surface, oxidising them into inert or harmless products.

Now, the Graphene Flagship team working on photocatalytic coatings, coordinated by Italcementi, HeidelbergCement Group, Italy, developed a new graphene-titania composite with significantly more powerful photodegradation properties than bare titania. "We answered the Flagship's call and decided to couple graphene to the most-used photocatalyst, titania, to boost the photocatalytic action," comments Marco Goisis, the research coordinator at Italcementi. "Photocatalysis is one of the most powerful ways we have to depollute the environment, because the process does not consume the photocatalysts. It is a reaction activated by solar light," he continues.

By performing liquid-phase exfoliation of graphite – a process that creates graphene – in the presence of titania nanoparticles, using only water and atmospheric pressure, they created a new graphene-titania nanocomposite that can be coated on the surface of materials to passively remove pollutants from the air. If the coating is applied to concrete on the street or on the walls of buildings, the harmless photodegradation products could be washed away by rain or wind, or manually cleaned off.

To measure the photodegradation effects, the team tested the new photocatalyst against NOx and recorded a sound improvement in photocatalytic degradation of nitrogen oxides compared to standard titania. They also used rhodamine B as a model for volatile organic pollutants, as its molecular structure closely resembles those of pollutants emitted by vehicles, industry and agriculture. They found that 40% more rhodamine B was degraded by the graphene-titania composite than by titania alone, in water under UV irradiation. "Coupling graphene to titania gave us excellent results in powder form – and it could be applied to different materials, of which concrete is a good example for the widespread use, helping us to achieve a healthier environment. It is low-maintenance and environmentally friendly, as it just requires the sun's energy and no other input," Goisis says. But there are challenges to be addressed before this can be used on a commercial scale. Cheaper methods to mass-produce graphene are needed. Interactions between the catalyst and the host material need to be deepened as well as studies into the long-term stability of the photocatalyst in the outdoor environment.

Ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy measurements revealed an electron transfer process from titania to the graphene flakes, decreasing the charge recombination rate and increasing the efficiency of reactive species photoproduction – meaning more pollutant molecules could be degraded.

Xinliang Feng, Graphene Flagship Work Package Leader for Functional Foams and Coatings, explains: "Photocatalysis in a cementitious matrix, applied to buildings, could have a large effect to decrease air pollution by reducing NOx and enabling self-cleaning of the surfaces – the so-called "smog-eating" effect. Graphene could help to improve the photocatalytic behaviour of catalysts like titania and enhance the mechanical properties of cement. In this publication, Graphene Flagship partners have prepared a graphene-titania composite via a one-step procedure to widen and improve the ground-breaking invention of "smog-eating" cement. The prepared composite showed enhanced photocatalytic activity, degrading up to 40% more pollutants than pristine titania in the model study, and up to 70% more NOx with a similar procedure. Moreover, the mechanism underlying this improvement was briefly studied using ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy."

Enrico Borgarello, Global Product Innovation Director at Italcementi, part of the HeidelbergCement Group, one of the world's largest producers of cement, comments: "Integrating graphene into titania to create a new nanocomposite was a success. The nanocomposite showed a strong improvement in the photocatalytic degradation of atmospheric NOx boosting the action of titania. This is a very significant result, and we look forward to the implementation of the photocatalytic nanocomposite for a better quality of air in the near future."

The reasons to incorporate graphene into concrete do not stop here. Italcementi is also working on another product – an electrically conductive graphene concrete composite, which was showcased at Mobile World Congress in February this year. When included as a layer in flooring, it could release heat when an electrical current is passed through it. Goisis comments: "You could heat your room, or the pavement, without using water from a tank or boiler. This opens the door to innovation for the smart cities of the future – particularly to self-sensing concrete," which could detect stress or strain in concrete structures and monitor for structural defects, providing warning signals if the structural integrity is close to failure.

Andrea C. Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and Chair of its Management Panel, adds: "An ever-increasing number of companies are now partners, or associate members of the Graphene Flagship, since they recognize the potential for new and improved technologies. In this work, Italcementi, leader in Italy in the field of building materials, demonstrated a clear application of graphene for the degradation of environment pollutants. This can not only have commercial benefits, but, most importantly, benefit of society by resulting in a cleaner and healthier environment"

Tags:  Andrea C. Ferrari  Eindhoven University of Technology  Enrico Borgarello  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Healthcare  HeidelbergCement Group  Israel Institute of Technology  Italcementi  nanoparticles  University of Bologna  University of Cambridge  Xinliang Feng 

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Re-Charging Lithium-Ion Batteries with Graphene

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, December 2, 2019
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019 rewarded the development of the lithium-ion battery. Lightweight and rechargeable, these batteries are now used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles. But, could it be improved? As part of its Spearhead Projects initiative, the Graphene Flagship invested in research to increase the electrode quality of these batteries. This project advanced the pre-industrial production and integration of silicon graphene composites into lithium-ion batteries for high-energy and high-power applications.

Graphene and related materials (GRMs), will play a key role in fulfilling the power requirements of lithium-ion batteries. With a high surface area, large electrical conductivity, light weight nature, chemical stability and high mechanical flexibility, graphene is an ideal material to significantly increase the lifespan, energy capacity and charge rate of lithium-ion batteries.

Entitled Technology of Silicon Graphene Lithium-ion Batteries for Large Scale Production (Batteries), the project to develop this technology was launched in 2017 as part of the Graphene Flagship's six initial Spearhead Projects.

The Batteries project has already achieved great feats. During the first six months, Graphene Flagship partners successfully upscaled the silicon graphene material in readiness for mass production — achieving production qualities in the range of over 100 grams of silicon graphene composite per week.

Looking to the future beyond the Spearhead Project, the goal is to achieve large scale production of silicon graphene lithium-ion batteries and achieve superior capacity and charging capabilities when compared to existing versions.

"The first results are very promising," explained Christoph Stangl, Work Package Leader for Energy Storage at the Graphene Flagship. "For the high-energy cell, we expect to outperform state-of-the-art benchmark cells by 20 per cent in capacity and 15 per cent in energy, with a lifetime target of 300 full cycles. Furthermore, for the high-power cell, a continuous charge and discharge of the final prototype should be possible in only six minutes." 

Tags:  Christoph Stangl  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Lightweight  Silicon Graphene 

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Car of the Future

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Thursday, November 21, 2019
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Graphene Flagship Partner Avanzare Named SME of the Year

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Thursday, November 21, 2019

Avanzare Innovación Tecnológica is a manufacturer of nanomaterials and advanced materials, as well as the European leader in graphene. Established in 2004 following the initial isolation of graphene, this research and development centre is at a pivotable point in its timeline, as tangible graphene products are fast becoming industrialised and commercialised across Spain.

"The award illustrates the progress in commercialising graphene through our innovation efforts across the Graphene Flagship," said Kari Hjelt, Graphene Flagship Head of Innovation. "Graphene has the unique capability to enhance multiple product attributes concurrently, which is nicely demonstrated in the different products from Avanzare. This award exemplifies the potential of graphene-based technologies to create value and transform businesses." 

Domingo Mendi, Institutional Manager at Banco Santander and one of the members of the jury, says that "Avanzare's results were impressive, their sales grew by 33% last year, and their workforce keeps expanding, creating a very positive impact in the region. Moreover, their international expansion is unstoppable: Avanzare now has three foreign offices—in China, India and Malaysia—and exports their products to 39 countries."

The jury also valued Avanzare's strong involvement with European projects such as the Graphene Flagship. "Finding key European partners and research collaborators was certainly key to the success of Avanzare, which has managed to bring innovations in graphene and related materials from the lab to the fab," adds Mendi.

In 2018, Avanzare Innovación Tecnológica generated approximately 4.5 million euros in funding, a feat attributed to its staff located across China, India and Malaysia, most of which are university graduates.

"Avanzare receiving the best SME award recognizes that we are a highly competitive company, capable of competing in international markets and generating profits," explained Julio Gomez Corden, Founder and CEO of Avanzare Innovación Tecnológica.

 


"In 2008 we received the National Entrepreneur Award, which recognized our potential. Eleven years later, we have received this award as a more mature company able to compete in the real market. This recognition for Avanzare demonstrates that graphene and its nanocomposites have tangible benefits in a lucrative market."

Avanzare Innovación Tecnológica is now eligible to win the National SME of the year award, a title which will be selected from the regional winners in Madrid in 2020.

Tags:  Avanzare Innovación Tecnológica  Banco Santander  Domingo Mendi  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Julio Gomez Corden  Kari Hjelt  nanomaterials 

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Graphene and layered materials boost silicon technologies

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Saturday, November 16, 2019
Updated: Friday, November 8, 2019
Silicon semiconductor technology has done marvels for the advancement of our society, which has benefited tremendously from its versatile use and amazing capabilities. The development of electronics, automation, computers, digital cameras and smartphones based on this material and its underpinning technology has reached skyrocket limits, downscaling the physical size of devices and wires to the nanometre regime. 

Although this technology has been growing since the late 1960s, the miniaturization of circuits seems to have reached a possible halt, since transistors can only be shrunk down to a certain size and not further beyond. Thus, there is a pressing need to complement Si CMOS technology with new materials and fulfil the future computing requirements as well as the needs for diversification of applications.

Graphene and related materials offer prospects of advances in device performance at the atomic limit.  They provide a possible solution to overcome the limitations of silicon technology, where the combination of layered materials with silicon chips promises to surpass the current technological limitations.

A team of researchers including Stijn Goossens and Frank Koppens, based at Graphene Flagship partner ICFO, and industrial leaders from Graphene Flagship partner IMEC and TSMC provided an in-depth and thorough review of opportunities, progress and challenges of integrating atomically thin materials with Si-based technology. They give insights on how and why layered materials could overcome current challenges posed by the existing technology and how they can enhance both device component function and performance, to boost the features of future technologies, in the areas of computational and non-computational applications.

For non-computational applications, they review the possible integration of these materials for future cameras, low power optical data communications and gas and bio-sensors. In particular, in image sensors and photodetectors, graphene and related materials could enable new vision in the infrared and terahertz range in addition to the visible range of the spectrum. These can serve for example in autonomous vehicles, security at airports and augmented reality.

For computational systems, and in particular in the field of transistors, they show how challenges such as doping, contact resistance and dielectrics/encapsulation can be diminished when integrating layered materials with Si technology. Layered materials could also improve memory and data storage devices with novel switching mechanisms for meta-insulator-metal structures, avoid sneak currents in memory arrays, or even push the performance gains of copper wire-based circuitry by adhering graphene to the ultrathin copper barrier materials and thus reduce resistance, scattering and self-heating.

The review provides a roadmap of layered material integration and CMOS technology, pinpointing the stage at which all challenges regarding growth, transfer, interface, doping, contacting, and design are currently standing today and what possible processes are expected to be resolved to achieve such goals of moving from a research laboratory environment to a pilot line for production of the first devices that combine both technologies. The layered materials-CMOS roadmap, as presented in this review, gives an exciting glimpse into the future, with pilot production expected to be just a few years from now.

Frank Koppens, Graphene Flagship Work Package Leader for Photonics and Optoelectronics and lead author of the study, says: "Now we have a clear industry-driven roadmap on layered material-silicon technologies and manufacturing. Complementing the established silicon technology with layered materials is key to combine the best of both worlds and enable a plethora of large volume and low-cost applications."

Marco Romagnoli, Graphene Flagship Work Package Leader for Wafer-Scale System Integration, comments: "This is an interesting paper complementing a previous one focused on graphene photonics for telecommunications that completes the range of applications in which graphene can be exploited for large scale production in CMOS environments. Also interesting is the type of application, in which graphene can best exploit its characteristics, from IR/THz cameras to low-power electronic switching and memories.

Andrea C. Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and Chair of its Management Panel, adds: "The integration of graphene and related materials with silicon and CMOS technology is the next goal for the Flagship. For this reason, we will fund the first foundry focussed on the integration of layered materials. This work clearly spells out the vision for the transformative technology that integration will enable."

Tags:  Andrea C. Ferrari  Frank Koppens  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  ICFO  Marco Romagnoli  optoelectronics  photonics  Semiconductor  Stijn Goossens  transistor 

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The Graphene Flagship Means Business

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Saturday, October 19, 2019

Leiden University spin-off, Crucell, is a world-famous biotechnology company. Johnson & Johnson acquired the business for close to $2.4 billion back in 2011. This mammoth sum of money highlights the potential of university or corporate spin-offs and their investment attraction.

There is a growing appetite for spin-offs and SMEs that have grown out of research. Here are four SMEs that are setting the pace in graphene and related materials (GRM) commercialisation in the Graphene Flagship.

EMBERION

Emberion develops and produces graphene photonics and electronics that revolutionise infrared photodetectors and thermal sensors. Applications include hyperspectral and thermal imaging, night vision and X-ray detection.

The business was a spin off company from Nokia. Following a long history of graphene research inside Nokia’s research organisation, the team joined the Graphene Flagship to take the work carried out on optoelectronics to the commercial market.

“Emberion was established in quite an early phase of product development,” explained Tapani Ryhänen, CEO of Emberion. “We had promising results and functional prototypes from our research and above all, we were able to get an agreement with venture capital investors.

"Emberion is focusing on various spectrometer and machine vision applications by producing novel image sensors. We provide products with broad wavelength range and low noise. Our image sensors can be used for example in agriculture, food processing and pharma industries."

During the next year, Emberion will start delivering its first imager products. The business will also commence with the Graphene Flagship GBIRCAM spearhead project, together with its partners, to bolster the readiness of graphene-enabled optoelectronics in industry.

GRAPHENEA

World leading graphene producer Graphenea, founded in 2010, was one of the first industrial partners to join the Graphene Flagship program. Graphenea participated in the proposal stages of the Graphene Flagship, collaborating closely since the inception of the EU-funded program.Business is booming for Graphenea. In 2018, the business generated €1.6 million, and is on track to grow by 25% in 2019.

Graphenea’s facilities are located in San Sebastián, Spain and Boston, USA. The 25 employees at Graphenea contribute to the successful development of graphene applications, including supplying CVD Graphene films, Graphene Field-Effect-Transistors chips (GFETs), Graphene Foundry Services (GFAB) and Graphene Oxides. Graphenea’s operation spans across more than 60 countries and a wide range of sectors.

“The collaboration between Graphenea and the Graphene Flagship has evolved over the last six years,” explained Iñigo Charola, business development director at Graphenea. “Our work has become incredibly industry-orientated, with focused spearhead projects to bring applications to market quickly and effectively.”

“Today, we are focusing not only on the production of graphene, but also developing our processing capabilities of the material. Our partnership with the Graphene Flagship provides the support to help reach this goal.” 

BEDIMENSIONAL

BeDimensional produces and develops graphene and 2D crystals for the manufacturing and energy industries. Its main target applications relate to coatings and paints and material production for energy applications.

As a start-up, BeDimensional was created as a spin-off company of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologica (IIT).

The research group started out their research in fundamental studies of electronic properties of two-dimensional semiconductor systems. They were also investigating some possibilities to tune the interaction of hydrogen and carbon by curving a graphene sheet. For this latter study, the team were approached in the initial stages of the Graphene Flagship project to set-up a work package on hydrogen storage.

After a two-year incubation period within the institute itself, BeDimensional moved onto the market after the acquisition of 51% of its shares by the Camponovo. The definitive push towards the path of industrialisation came at the end of 2018, after the €18 million investment from Pellan Group.

So, what’s next for BeDimensional?
After closing this round of investment, BeDimensional is now fully immersed in implementing its industrial and commercial strategies. The first production line of two-dimensional crystals is already operational and the business is in the process of setting up more laboratories for research and development.

“We need to strategically position ourselves at the right level of the industrial value chains linked to each specific application,” explained Vittorio Pellegrini, founder and scientific advisor for BeDimensional. “We believe it is crucial to establish partnerships and joint ventures with appropriate global players. At the same time, we will reinforce our investment in R&D by attracting the best people on board.”

BeDimensional has a clear mission and knows how it’s going to reach its business goals. Watch this space. 

VERSARIEN

Versarien, headquartered in Cheltenham, UK, is an engineering solutions company that delivers novel technologies for industrial applications. Through subsidiary companies, Versarien delivers targeted solutions as well as research and development into new, complementary technologies.

Versarien was founded in 2010 and has been an associate member of the Graphene Flagship since 2018, collaborating closely with researchers in the project.

The company has acquired multiple businesses under the Versarien group, including two spin-offs from high-profile universities carrying out graphene research.

In 2014, 2-DTech joined the group. 2-DTech was originally formed by the University of Manchester to manufacture and supply high quality graphene for research and development. It has now grown into a commercial operation not only supplying high grade graphene and other 2-D materials, but also working on the application of graphene in product development projects.

In 2017, Versarien acquired Cambridge Graphene Ltd. from the University of Cambridge. Cambridge Graphene develops inks, composites and supercapacitors based on graphene and related materials, using processes developed at the Cambridge Graphene Centre.

The Cambridge Graphene Centre’s mission is to investigate the science and technology of graphene and other carbon allotropes, layered crystals and hybrid nanomaterials. The spin-out company has commercialised graphene inks for novel technology applications.

These two Graphene Flagship spin-offs join the numerous other companies in the Versarien group, creating a real force to be reckoned with for graphene commercialisation and business growth.

Tags:  BeDimensional  Cambridge Graphene Centre  CVD  Emberion  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  graphene oxide  Graphenea  Iñigo Charola  Leiden University  Tapani Ryhänen  Versarien  Vittorio Pellegrini 

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Scientists create fully electronic 2-dimensional spin transistors

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Physicists from the University of Groningen constructed a two-dimensional spin transistor, in which spin currents were generated by an electric current through graphene. A monolayer of a transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD) was placed on top of graphene to induce charge-to-spin conversion in the graphene. This experimental observation was described in the issue of the journal Nano Letters published on 11 September 2019.

Spintronics is an attractive alternative way of creating low-power electronic devices. It is not based on a charge current but on a current of electron spins. Spin is a quantum mechanical property of an electron, a magnetic moment that could be used to transfer or store information.

Heterostructure
Graphene, a 2D form of carbon, is an excellent spin transporter. However, in order to create or manipulate spins, interaction of its electrons with the atomic nuclei is needed: spin-orbit coupling. This interaction is very weak in carbon, making it difficult to generate or manipulate spin currents in graphene. However, it has been shown that spin-orbit coupling in graphene will increase when a monolayer of a material with heavier atoms (such as a TMD) is placed on top, creating a Van der Waals heterostructure.

In the Physics of Nanodevices group, led by Professor Bart van Wees at the University of Groningen, Ph.D. student Talieh Ghiasi and postdoctoral researcher Alexey Kaverzin created such a heterostructure. Using gold electrodes, they were able to send a pure charge current through the graphene and generate a spin current, referred to as the Rashba-Edelstein effect. This happens due to the interaction with the heavy atoms of the TMD monolayer (in this case, tungsten disulfide). This well-known effect was observed for the first time in graphene that was in proximity to other 2D materials.

Symmetries

'The charge current induces a spin current in the graphene, which we could measure with spin-selective ferromagnetic cobalt electrodes,' says Ghiasi. This charge-to-spin conversion makes it possible to build all-electrical spin circuits with graphene. Previously, the spins had to be injected through a ferromagnet. 'We have also shown that the efficiency of the generation of the spin accumulation can be tuned by the application of an electric field,' adds Ghiasi. This means that they have built a spin transistor in which the spin current can be switched on and off.

The Rashba-Edelstein effect is not the only effect that produces a spin current. The study shows that the Spin-Hall effect does the same, but that these spins are oriented differently. 'When we apply a magnetic field, we make the spins rotate in the field. Different symmetries of the spin signals generated by the two effects in interaction with the magnetic field help us to disentangle the contribution of each effect in one system,' explains Ghiasi. It was also the first time that both types of charge-to-spin conversion mechanisms were observed in the same system. 'This will help us to gain more fundamental insights into the nature of spin-orbit coupling in these heterostructures.'

Graphene Flagship

Apart from the fundamental insights that the study can provide, building an all-electrical 2D spin transistor (without ferromagnets) has considerable significance for spintronic applications, which is also a goal of the EU Graphene Flagship. 'This is especially true because we were able to see the effect at room temperature. The spin signal decreased with increasing temperature but was still very much present under ambient conditions.'

Tags:  2D materials  Bart van Wees  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Talieh Ghiasi  transistor  University of Groningen 

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