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Two new FLAG-ERA projects in Aachen

Posted By Graphene Council, Friday, January 31, 2020

The Aachen Graphene & 2D Materials Center  has won two projects on basic research and innovation on graphene in the last FLAG-ERA Joint Transnational Call.

FLAG-ERA is a network of national and regional funding organizations in Europe that supports the two first FET Flagship projects of the European Commission: the Graphene Flagship and the Human Brain Project. On November 2018, FLAG-ERA announced its third Joint Transnational Call (FLAG-ERA JTC 2019), with an initial budget of 20 M€. This type of call presents a number of peculiarities. First, it funds only topics where synergies with the two Flagships are expected. Second, it funds only projects that involve partners form three or more different countries participating to the FLAG-ERA net. Third, while all projects are evaluated “centrally” by an independent evaluation panel, those recommended for funding are funded by the individual funding agencies − meaning that each partner of the project is funded by its national funding agency.

“It might seem a complicated way of financing research”, says Prof. Max Lemme from the chair of Electronic Devices at RWTH Aachen University, “but graphene is a topic that profits enormously from this kind of transnational collaborations.” Lemme is partner of the project 2D-NEMS, together with Prof. Christoph Stampfer − also at RWTH − and with colleagues from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and from Graphenea Semiconductor in Spain.

The goal of the project is to explore the potential of heterostructures formed by graphene and other two-dimensional materials for realizing ultra small and ultra sensitive sensors, such as accelerometers. “We want to understand which combination of 2D-materials works better for a certain type of sensors and why”, says Lemme. “And, most importantly, we want to realize prototypes that are not only good for high-impact publications, but that can be of real interest for industry.”

Christoph Stampfer, head of II Institute of Physics A, is also involved in the FLAG-ERA project TATTOOS, together with colleagues from UC Louvain in Belgium and CNRS in Paris.  TATTOOS is a more exploratory project, dedicated to some of the most fascinating properties of bilayer graphene.

As the name says, bilayer graphene is a material formed by two layers of graphene. One of the big scientific surprises of 2018 was that for certain “magic angles” between the two layers  the system can exhibit superconductivity or other exotic properties. “In TATTOOS we’ll use a technique developed by our CNRS colleague, which should allow to rotate dynamically the angle between the layers with the tip of an atomic force microscope.”, explains Stampfer. “It’s a crazy idea! Typically, changing the angle requires making a new sample. If they hadn’t already demonstrated this approach on a similar system, I would not believe it can work. I’m really excited to see what new physics we can explore in this way.”

Lemme and Stampfer are both members of the Aachen Graphene and 2D Materials Center. “The fact that the Center is participating in two of the nine projects funded in the sub-call “Graphene – Basic Research and Innovation”, is a good example of the relevance of the research done here in Aachen”, says Stampfer, who is also the spokesperson of the Center.

Tags:  2D materials  Christoph Stampfer  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Graphenea  Max Lemme  RWTH Aachen University  Semiconductor 

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Adding graphene to amorphous carbon random-access memories could lead to smaller memory devices that consume less power

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Researchers at Graphene Flagship partner the Cambridge Graphene Centre, University of Cambridge, have developed a new type of resistive memory that can be scaled down beyond current limitations. They also collaborated with colleagues at Soochow University to discuss the state-of-the-art technology and evaluate the future of resistive memories based on graphene and related materials (GRMs). Furthermore, Graphene Flagship partners at CNRS, France, and CSIC and ICREA, Spain, along with SAC member Luigi Colombo, analysed the properties and device structures required for practical GRM-based memory devices to reach their potential.

Data storage in computers comes in two distinct flavours: volatile and non-volatile memory, and both are essential in modern electronic devices. Volatile memory is used in random access memory (RAM) and computer processors to store temporary data, whereas non-volatile memory is used in hard drives and flash drives for long-term data storage.

Over the past 25 years, this technology has advanced tremendously – with Moore's Law predicting a near-doubling in the number of transistors on a microchip every two years, while the cost of computers roughly halves. For most of the past few decades, this has resulted in exponential growth in computer storage space and a corresponding reduction in size. But Moore's Law is dying, and we are rapidly approaching the physical limits of data storage. One of the reasons for this is that when the size of memory devices approaches the nanometer scale, leakage currents in capacitors lead to severe data losses.

By integrating a layer of graphene into resistive RAM devices made with tetrahedral amorphous carbon, Graphene Flagship scientists have now developed a new type of memory that can be scaled down beyond previous size limitations. The new memory devices could lead to better-performing computers and personal electronics with much larger storage capacities. In the devices, tetrahedral amorphous carbon, which has high electrical resistance, is sandwiched between two electrodes. When an electric field is applied between the electrodes, a conductive path forms in the carbon layer, connecting the two electrodes and forming a low resistance state. The high- and low-resistance states can be used to encode data in the form of binary 1s and 0s.

In their paper, published in the journal 2D Materials, Graphene Flagship partner University of Cambridge showed that by adding a graphene layer between an amorphous carbon layer and one of the electrodes, they can significantly improve the performance of the memory and suppress the leakage current that leads to data loss. "Leakage currents become more dominant as device sizes get smaller, and it's important that the two memory states – the high- and low-resistance states, or the ones and zeroes – are not too close together," explains Anna Ott from the Cambridge Graphene Centre. "Adding a graphene layer improves this ratio by an order of magnitude and suppresses the leakage current, showing that amorphous carbon-based memories are suitable for achieving the smallest possible memory size."

In their Advanced Electronic Materials paper, the Graphene Flagship researchers conclude that the main challenges facing scientists developing new, state-of-the-art resistive RAM devices, are creating durable devices that can run for over 109 switching cycles and achieving data retention times of over 10 years. The researchers find that augmenting resistive RAM with GRMs results in highly stable devices with very promising performance. They show that GRMs are already fit for some non-volatile memory requirements, and that they can be a promising alternative to currently used technologies. 

In the Advanced Materials publication, the Graphene Flagship researchers state that for these technologies to be realized, scientists must focus on two main areas of progress: high-speed and high-capacity non-volatile memories and low-cost, flexible and transparent storage devices for wearable electronics. "You normally need one to two decades of intense research before an exciting proof-of-concept like this can turn into a game-changing technology and hit the market," comments Samorì from Graphene Flagship Partner University of Strasbourg. He emphasizes that this is feasible, but sustainable and continuous funding support will be needed before it can become a reality.

Indeed, Ott explains that graphene-enabled memory devices compare well to state-of-the-art: in terms of speed, they are faster than traditional flash memories, comparable to the dynamic RAM common in today's computer components, and slower than static RAM, which Ott says is expected. "Carbon-based resistive RAM provides much better scaling possibilities compared to static and dynamic RAM and flash memories. We can also add oxygen to get oxygen-amorphous carbon, which improves the endurance – how many times the device can be switched between the two resistance states – to be comparable to flash memories," she continues.

Daniel Neumaier, leader of the Graphene Flagship's Electronic Devices Work Package, comments: "These papers are highly valuable for scientists trying to create smaller and smaller resistive RAM technology. Data loss due to leakage currents is one of the main problems in nanoscale-sized memory devices, and the work demonstrates that incorporating tetrahedral amorphous carbon reduces this problem."

Further collaborations could lead to graphene-integrated memories hitting the market. However, the integration of GRMs into memory manufacturing processes may be a challenge. "This will be one of the main issues to overcome in order to bring graphene from laboratories to factories," concludes Ott.

Andrea C. Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and Chair of its Management Panel, adds: "These publications show that graphene and related materials are finding their way into new applications of resistive memories. These are at the centre of an ever-increasing research effort and, yet again, the Graphene Flagship and its collaborators are at the forefront of not just novel research, but also of the outlining of future directions."

Tags:  2D materials  Andrea C. Ferrari  Anna Ott  Daniel Neumaier  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  University of Cambridge 

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Join the Graphene Flagship Core 3 Spearhead Project GRAPES

Posted By Graphene Council, Monday, January 13, 2020

The Graphene Flagship is looking for a new partner that brings in specific industrial and technology transfer competences or capabilities that complement the present consortium of the Spearhead Project GRAPES.

We are seeking an industrial partner with the following expertise and capabilities:

· A world-leader in renewable power generation.

· A proven track record in manufacturing and assembly of photovoltaic (PV) panels and operation of solar parks.

· A fully automated pilot silicon PV line in order to transfer the tandem process developed within SH5 Grapes to its line and demonstrates industrial S2S manufacturing.

· Operational solar parks in different European geographical locations.

· The Company must have:

1. Fully automated pilot line for the production of Si high efficiency solar cells (>20%) with a throughput>150 MW/year.

2. Manufacturing Execution System and Statistical Process Control for real-time out of control detection to costs and performances optimization.

3. Owner/Operator of solar parks for on-site outdoor testing of tandem PV panels in multiple sites across Europe.

The newly selected partner will be incorporated in the Core 3 Project under the Horizon 2020 phase of the Graphene Flagship, which will run during 1 April 2020 - 31 March 2023. The new partners will be requested to sign the relevant agreement with the European Commission.

Tags:  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  photovoltaics  solar cells 

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Generation and manipulation of spin currents for advanced electronic devices

Posted By Graphene Council, Friday, January 10, 2020
Graphene-based heterostructures of the van der Waals class could be used to design ultra-compact and low-energy electronic devices and magnetic memories. This is what a paper published in the latest issue of the Nature Materials journal suggests. The results have shown that it is possible to perform an efficient and tunable spin-charge conversion in these structures and, for the first time, even at room temperature.

The work has been led by ICREA Prof. Sergio O. Valenzuela, head of the ICN2 Physics and Engineering of Nanodevices Group. The first authors are L. Antonio Benítez and Williams Savero Torres, of the same group. Members of the ICN2 Theoretical and Computational Nanoscience Group, as its head, ICREA Prof. Stephan Roche, also signed the paper. This study has been developed within the framework of the Graphene Flagship, a broad European Project in which researchers of the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) play a leadership role. The results complement recent researches carried out within this same initiative, such as the one published in 2019 in NanoLetters by scientists from the University of Groningen (RUG).

The electronics that use spin - a property of electrons - to store, manipulate and transfer information, called spintronics, are driving important markets, such as those of motion sensors and information storage technologies. However, the development of efficient and versatile spin-based technologies requires high-quality materials that allow long-distance spin transfer, as well as methods to generate and manipulate spin currents, i.e. electron movements with their spin oriented in a given direction.

The spin currents are usually produced and detected using ferromagnetic materials. As an alternative, spin-orbit interactions allow the generation and control of spin currents exclusively through electric fields, providing a much more versatile tool for the implementation of large-scale spin devices.

Graphene is a unique material for long distance spin transport. The present work demonstrates that this transport can be manipulated in graphene by proximity effects. To induce these effects, transition metal dichalcogenides have been used, which are two-dimensional materials as graphene. Researchers have demonstrated a good efficiency of spin-charge interconversion at room temperature, which is comparable to the best performance of traditional materials.

These advances are the result of a joint effort by experimental and theoretical researchers, who worked side by side in the framework of the Graphene Flagship. The outcomes of this study are of great relevance for the communities of spintronics and two-dimensional materials, as they provide relevant information on the fundamental physics of the phenomena involved and open the door to new applications

Tags:  Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnolog  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  L. Antonio Benítez  Nature Materials  Physics and Engineering of Nanodevices Group  Sergio O. Valenzuela  Stephan Roche  Theoretical and Computational Nanoscience Group  University of Groningen  Williams Savero Torres 

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Layered heterostructures put a spin on magnetic memory devices

Posted By Graphene Council, Thursday, January 9, 2020
Graphene is a unique material with great potential for the long-distance transportation of spin information. However, spin-to-charge interconversion (SCI) in graphene and graphene-based heterostructures to date could not be performed at room temperature. But now, researchers at Graphene Flagship partners ICN2 and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, and the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, have achieved efficient room temperature SCI in graphene-based structures, and devised a way to make this process tuneable using an external electric field. The findings, published in Nature Materials and Nano Letters, could allow scientists to use layered heterostructures for ultra-compact, low-power consumption magnetic memory devices.

Spintronics is a branch of electronics which uses electrons' spin to store, manipulate and transfer information. Spintronics could benefit many emerging markets, like motion sensing and next-generation memory devices. Developing efficient and versatile spin-based technologies requires both high-quality materials for long-distance spin transfer, and suitable engineering methods to generate and manipulate spin currents, to ensure electrons move in a controlled way with their spins oriented along a given direction.

Generally, spin currents are generated and detected using ferromagnetic contacts. But as an alternative, spin-orbit interactions could enable spin currents to be controlled entirely by an electric field, resulting in a far more versatile tool to be implemented in large-scale spin devices. Now, Graphene Flagship researchers ICREA Prof. Sergio O. Valenzuela, ICREA Prof. Stephan Roche, and colleagues have exploited the unique spin properties of graphene to transport spin information across long distances in large-scale SCI electronics. Additionally, by interfacing graphene with transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), another family of layered materials with strong spin-orbit coupling, they were able to precisely control spin transport in these devices. "Thanks to this research, the Graphene Flagship's Spintronics Work Package has made a major step towards the engineering of SCI in quantum devices, with genuine potential for spintronics applications," explains Roche.

By fabricating a high-quality device and using very sensitive detection techniques to evaluate the spin Hall and inverse spin Galvanic effects – focusing in particular on spin precession and non-local measurements – they demonstrated experimentally that the SCI in graphene–TMD heterostructures is in good agreement with theoretical models. Furthermore, using these techniques, Graphene Flagship researchers not only demonstrated the spin-related character of the signals, but also tailored the efficiency of their SCI and sign using electrostatic gating. This important feature directly showcases their ability to manipulate spin information in the heterostructures with an electric field, and this could soon lead to new applications in magnetic memory devices. Most notably, they found that the room temperature SCI efficiencies were just as high as the best results using other materials.

"We're very excited to report the first unambiguous evidence of large and tuneable SCI in van der Waals heterostructures at room temperature," comments Valenzuela, from Graphene Flagship partner ICN2. "This is a significant step forward towards the long sought-after goal of electrostatic control of spin information," he continues. Additionally, Prof. Bart van Wees, from Graphene Flagship partner the University of Groningen, elaborates: "It is difficult to imagine how complex it is to fabricate spin devices combining various types of magnetic and non-magnetic materials, graphene, boron nitride, and strong spin-orbit coupling materials such as TMDs. Thanks to this work, the Spintronics Work Package has developed a unique expertise in realizing operational spin devices which really show the full potential of layered materials."

Kevin Garello, Graphene Flagship Work Package Leader for Spintronics, comments: "Devices involving the spin–orbit torque phenomenon, such as the spin Hall effect and the spin Galvanic effect, are great candidates for future spintronics applications as they require low power input and are capable of ultra-fast performance. It is great to see that spin-orbit torques can be electrically manipulated and improved by the smart engineering of layered materials, which has now been unequivocally confirmed independently by two experimental teams in Work Package Spintronics. This opens the door for new and exciting perspectives and strategies to manipulate spin information and further advance applications in spintronics based on layered materials."

The success of these studies is the result of the joint effort between experimental and theoretical researchers working closely together in the EU-funded Graphene Flagship framework. The results provide valuable insights for the spintronics and layered materials communities, and the researchers hope that their findings will enable scientists to explore new theoretical models and further experiments in the future.

Andrea C. Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and Chair of its Management Panel, adds: "The Graphene Flagship has invested in spintronics research since the very beginning. The great potential of graphene and related materials in this area has been showcased by world-leading work done in the Flagship. These results indicate that we are getting close to the point where the fundamental work can be translated into useful applications, as foreseen in our science and technology and innovation roadmaps."

Tags:  Andrea C. Ferrari  Electronics  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  ICN2  ICREA  Kevin Garello  Sergio O. Valenzuela  Stephan Roche  Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona  University of Groningen 

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Graphene gas sensors for real-time monitoring of air pollution

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), working with partners from the Graphene Flagship, Chalmers University of Technology, the Advanced Institute of Technology, Royal Holloway University and Linköping University, have created a low-cost, low-energy consuming NO2 sensor that measures NO2 levels in real-time.

The World Health Organisation reported that 4.2 million deaths every year are a direct result of exposure to ambient air pollution such as NO2, SO2, NH3, CO2 and CO. One of the most dangerous pollutants, NO2 gas, is produced by burning fossil fuels e.g. in diesel engines. Significant portions of the population in large cities, specifically London, have been consistently exposed to NO2 levels above the legislated limit. Even at very low concentrations NO2 is toxic for humans, leading to breathing problems, asthma attacks and potentially causing childhood obesity and dementia.  

NPL and partners have developed a graphene-based NO2 detector that reports pollutant levels based on changes in its electrical resistance. The high sensitivity of graphene to the local environment has shown to be highly advantageous in sensing applications, where ultralow concentrations of absorbed molecules induce a significant response on the electronic properties of graphene. The unique electronic structure makes graphene the ‘ultimate’ sensing material for applications in environmental monitoring and air quality.  

NPL has developed and demonstrated the novel type of NO2 sensors based on different types of graphene. This low-cost and technologically simple solution uses simple chemiresistor approach and allows for measurements of the exceedingly low levels of NO2 e.g. below 10 ppb. 1 ppb is a concentration equal to a droplet of ink in 2 Olympic size swimming pools. According to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines the targeted level of NO2 pollution in cities is 21 ppb however, the typical average level in London is 30-40 ppb.    

There is a well-demonstrated global need for high sensitivity, low-cost, low-energy consumption miniaturised NO2 gas sensors to be deployed in a dense network and to be used to pinpoint and avoid high pollution hot spots. Such sensors operating in real-time can help to visualise pollution in urban areas with unprecedently high local resolution. 

Olga Kazakova, National Physical Laboratory (NPL) states: “Understanding the problem is the first step to solving the problem. If you only monitor certain junctions or roads for NO2 pollution, you do not get an accurate picture of the environment. In order to do this, a dense network must be set up to show the dynamically changing level of pollution through different times of day and year, so you can get to know the real level of critical exposure.” 

With the data provided by a dense network of graphene sensors, people could us an app to check how much NO2 pollution they might be exposed to on their planned route, and city councils could use this information to dynamically restrict and divert cars near schools and hospitals. This would enable governing bodies to adopt smart and flexible restrictive measures in specific areas recognised as being highly pollutive. 

Tags:  Chalmers University of Technology  environment  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  National Physical Laboratory  Olga Kazakova  pollution  Sensors 

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Airbus Graphene Flagship Project

Posted By Graphene Council, Thursday, December 19, 2019
Versarien Plc, the advanced materials engineering group, is pleased to announce that it has been selected to participate in the Graphene Flagship project led by Airbus (the "Project").

Funded by the European Commission, the Graphene Flagship facilitates cooperation between its partners, accelerating the timeline for industry acceptance of graphene technologies. The Project that Versarien will participate in will be led by Airbus and will focus on graphene enhanced thermoelectric ice protection systems.

Ice accumulates on the surfaces of airplanes affecting the pilot's control of the aircraft. Thermoelectric ice protection systems prevent this from happening using an ultra-thin conductive layer to generate heat. The Project, which is categorised by the Graphene Flagship as a "Spearhead", large-scale commercialisation project, aims to develop graphene-based thermoelectric ice protection systems and to advance the technology readiness level of graphene in these systems.

To fund Versarien's participation in the Project it has received approval for a €350,000 grant from the Graphene Flagship.

Elmar Bonaccurso, Senior Scientist and Project Manager for Surface Technology at Airbus, commented: "Airbus has been following the Graphene Flagship from the beginning. Now, after six years of successful research and development, we are at the right point to step in with a larger project. We expect that, by using graphene as a material for ice protection systems, we can reduce the complexity of these systems to create a system that uses less energy, reduces fuel consumption and allows us to become more environmentally friendly in aviation."

Neill Ricketts, CEO of Versarien, commented: "We are very pleased to be working with Airbus on this key Graphene Flagship project and to be receiving funding from the Graphene Flagship to facilitate it. This is another example of Versarien's graphene technology being deployed in the aerospace sector, one where it has the potential to add significant value. We look forward to starting work on this project in the New Year and reporting on its progress and those of our many other commercialisation projects in due course."

Tags:  Airbus  Elmar Bonaccurso  European Commission  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Neill Ricketts  Versarien 

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

Posted By 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, 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, 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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