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First look inside new £105m Henry Royce Institute Hub Building

Posted By Graphene Council, Thursday, September 10, 2020
The Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials research and innovation celebrated a key milestone earlier this year ahead of the new national hub becoming fully operational in 2021.

The Royce Hub Building based at The University of Manchester forms part of a growing network of facilities across the Institute’s Partner organisations: the National Nuclear Laboratory, UK Atomic Energy Authority, Imperial College London and the Universities of Cambridge, Leeds, Liverpool, Oxford and Sheffield, providing access to state-of-the-art equipment to academia and industry.

Extending across 9 floors and located at the heart of The University of Manchester's campus, it will foster world-class collaborative research in tandem with industry to act as an international convener for materials research excellence.

Following the construction phase, the Royce Hub Building was handed over by the contractors Laing O’Rourke in March 2020 and the first operational staff were just hours away from moving in before non-essential facilities closure was initiated in line with government guidance.

Progress on the interiors still continues and the Institute can now share a first look inside the £105m building which will act as a national hub for driving advanced materials research, development, and commercialisation in the UK.

Contractors continue the fit-out to minimise disruption when equipment and staff move in following The University of Manchester’s phased reopening of the campus. The first labs are expected to be completed towards the end of 2020.

The building will host £45 million worth of new equipment, as well as existing facilities in Manchester for biomedical materials, metals processing, digital fabrication, and sustainable materials research including the new Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Alongside this will be collaborative space for industry engagement, helping to accelerate the development and commercialisation of advanced materials for a sustainable society.

The building and new equipment, totalling £150 million, forms part of the wider £235m investment by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council across Royce’s national partnership. Investment has also be made by The Wolfson Foundation to support the biomedical materials facility within the building.

“The new Royce Hub Building will act as a centre of scientific excellence for advanced materials and a meeting place for the national community. By bringing together the UK’s academic and industrial materials leaders, Royce will identify new opportunities, workshop ideas, and develop new strategies and approaches to tomorrow’s materials demands.” Prof Philip Withers, Regius Professor of Materials and Royce Chief Scientist

Regius Professor of Materials and Royce Chief Scientist Philip Withers said: “The new Royce Hub Building will act as a centre of scientific excellence for advanced materials and a meeting place for the national community. By bringing together the UK’s academic and industrial materials leaders, Royce will identify new opportunities, workshop ideas, and develop new strategies and approaches to tomorrow’s materials demands.”

Professor David Knowles, CEO of the Henry Royce Institute said: “Royce has come a long way since its inception in 2016 and the handover of the new Royce Hub Building in Manchester represents the next chapter in our story. Although COVID-19 has delivered some unprecedented challenges and delays, we are confident that the physical space will demonstrate that the national institute is truly open for business. We can now look to address challenge-led research that will have positive impact on UK and global citizens, underpinning the Royce vision of ‘Advanced Materials for a Sustainable Society’.”

Manchester is a world-leader in developing new and existing materials and is already known globally as the home of graphene – a game-changing two-dimensional material first isolated at The University of Manchester in 2004.

Dr Diana Hampson, Director of Estates for The University of Manchester commented “We are delighted to have successfully delivered the construction phase of the Henry Royce Institute Hub Building which sits alongside the University’s growing advanced materials campus including the National Graphene Institute and the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre. The research that will take place in these buildings will consolidate Manchester’s role at the centre of materials characterisation – measuring and exploring materials that will help us fully understand their properties and potential.”

Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, EPSRC Executive Chair said: “Advanced materials research and innovation is essential to tackle global challenges from applications in the energy sector to advances in healthcare. The opening of the new Royce Hub Building is an important milestone to drive exciting advanced materials research that will extend our capabilities across a wide range of disciplines.”

The Royce Hub Building, under the Project and Cost Management of Arcadis was designed by NBBJ, an international architectural practice, alongside civil and structural engineers Ramboll and building services engineers Arup. The building was delivered by Laing O’Rourke, the appointed University of Manchester contractor.

Tags:  Dame Lynn Gladden  David Knowles  Diana Hampson  Graphene  Philip Withers  The Henry Royce Institute  University of Manchester 

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Fixing 'food miles': how graphene-enhanced farming can cut costs and emissions

Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, September 2, 2020
A start-up company based at The University of Manchester has begun trials of a graphene-enhanced growth material that could revolutionise food production in the UK and overseas, reducing transportation and contributing to sustainability in farming worldwide.

AEH Innovative Hydrogel Ltd secured £1m of Government funding through Innovate UK in July and begins work on the project in the University’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre on 1 September 2020. The two-year project will develop a unique, virtually maintenance-free ‘vertical farming’ system (‘GelPonic’).

GelPonic relies on a growth substrate for indoor fruit-and-veg that improves performance in numerous ways. The hydrogel growth medium conserves water and filters out pathogens to protect plants from disease, while a graphene sensor allows remote monitoring, reducing labour costs. Moreover, the production of the growth medium outputs significantly less CO2 compared to traditional solutions and can also be used in areas with drought conditions and infertile soil.

Help for farming through technology

AEH - led by Dr Beenish Siddique (pictured) - has been supported by the European Research Development Fund (ERDF) Bridging the Gap programme and was a 2019 prize-winner in the prestigious Eli Harari competition, run by the University. The extra funding announced by the Government on 17 July is part of a broader £24 million spend to assist UK farming through pioneering technology.

Beenish said: “One of the biggest hurdles in controlled environment agriculture is operational cost, which makes it a low-profit-margin business. The fact this system is almost maintenance-free could make a big difference to whether farms can be successful or not.”

“We believe there is an opportunity here to change the future of farming not just here in the UK but around the world," she added. "Globally, around 70% of the fresh water available to humans is used for agriculture and 60% of that is wasted; agriculture also contributes around 20% of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Our system helps control that waste and those emissions, shortens germination times and could enable an increase of 25% in crop yields.”

Post-COVID sustainability

One of Beenish’s colleagues at the GEIC is Commercialisation Director Ray Gibbs, whose role is to help to bring innovative ideas to fruition through launching start-up and early-stage companies such as AEH. He believes the current pandemic, in tandem with net-zero targets, has sharpened the Government’s focus on investment in innovation.

Ray said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of the UK supply chains, none more so than food supply. Indoor farming allows us to grow food in the UK that would normally come from another part of the world. That contributes to self-sustainability, reduces food miles and means we’re not so reliant on international markets for our food.”

AEH is developing its system alongside project partners and subcontractors including Crop Health & Protection (CHAP), Labman Automation, Grobotic Systems and Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC).

CHAP’s Innovation Network Lead Dr Harry Langford said: “There is a significant market demand for more sustainable hydroponic substrates. This project is an exciting opportunity to optimise and scale-up a novel hydrogel product and demonstrate this product directly to the end-user, within a highly innovative automated production system”.

Tags:  AEH Innovative Hydrogel Ltd  Beenish Siddique  Covid-19  European Research Development Fund  Graphene  Harry Langford  Healthcare  Innovate UK  Ray Gibbs  University of Manchester 

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Graphene additives show a new way to control the structure of organic crystals

Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, September 2, 2020
A team of researchers at The University of Manchester has demonstrated that the surface properties of graphene can be used to control the structure of organic crystals obtained from solution.

Organic crystal structures can be found in a large number of products, such as food, explosives, colour pigments and pharmaceuticals. However, organic crystals can come in different structures, called polymorphs: each of these forms has very different physical and chemical properties, despite having the same chemical composition.

To make a comparison, diamond and graphite are polymorphs because they are composed both by carbon atoms, but they have very different properties because the atoms are bonded to form different structures. The same concept can be extended to organic molecules, when interacting between each other to form crystals.

Understanding and reacting to how materials work on a molecular level is key because the wrong polymorph can cause a food to have a bad taste, or a drug to be less effective. There are several examples of drugs removed from the market because of polymorphism-related problems. As such, production of a specific polymorph is currently a fundamental problem for both research and industry and it does involve substantial scientific and economic challenges.

New research from The University of Manchester has now demonstrated that adding graphene to an evaporating solution containing organic molecules can substantially improve the selectivity towards a certain crystalline form. This opens up new applications of graphene in the field of crystal engineering, which have been completely unexplored so far.

Professor Cinzia Casiraghi, who led the team, said: “Ultimately, we have shown that advanced materials, such as graphene and the tools of nanotechnology enable us to study crystallisation of organic molecules from a solution in a radically new way. We are now excited to move towards molecules that are commonly used for pharmaceuticals and food to further investigate the potential of graphene in the field of crystal engineering."

In the report, published in ACS Nano, the team has shown that by tuning the surface properties of graphene, it is possible to change the type of polymorphs produced. Glycine, the simplest amino acid, has been used as reference molecule, while different types of graphene have been used either as additive or as templates.

Matthew Boyes, and Adriana Alieva, PhD students at The University of Manchester, both contributed to this work: “This is a pioneering work on the use of graphene as an additive in crystallisation experiments. We have used different types of graphene with varying oxygen content and looked at their effects on the crystal outcome of glycine. We have observed that by carefully tuning the oxygen content of graphene, it is possible to induce preferential crystallisation.” said Adriana.

Computer modelling, performed by Professor Melle Franco at the University of Aveiro, Portugal, supports the experimental results and attributes the polymorph selectivity to the presence of hydroxyl groups allowing for hydrogen bonding interactions with the glycine molecules, thereby favouring one polymorph over the other, once additional layers of the polymorph are added during crystal growth.

This work has been financially supported by the European Commission in the framework of the European Research Council (ERC Consolidator), which supports the most innovative research ideas in Europe, by placing emphasis on the quality of the idea rather than the research area, and it is a joint collaboration between the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Chemical Engineering, with Dr Thomas Vetter.

Tags:  ACS Nano  Adriana Alieva  Cinzia Casiraghi  European Research Council  Graphene  graphite  Healthcare  Matthew Boyes  Melle Franco  Thomas Vetter  University of Aveiro  University of Manchester 

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Beyond chip-and-PIN: graphene’s quick, hygienic solution to restaurant payment

Posted By Graphene Council, Wednesday, August 26, 2020
A new graphene-based contactless payment system, developed in collaboration with the University of Manchester, has begun a restaurant pilot that could pave the way for the end of chip-and-PIN, cutting customer wait-time and reducing the risk of infectious transmission.

‘Payper’ allows the customer to tap their phone on a smart till receipt that features a printed electronic antenna. The smartphone reads data from the antenna, triggering the bill, which is shown via the customer’s default browser. Android or Apple Pay checkout is then completed with two clicks, in less than five seconds with no app required.

Strength and flexibility

The role of graphene in the antenna is to provide high flexibility, conductivity and mechanical strength, which can be imparted onto the tight and variable curvature of the till roll.

The project is led by Manchester start-up Payper Technologies, co-founded by Dr Thanasis Georgiou and Renate Kalnina (pictured right). Thanasis said: “Payper’s antennas combines graphene with metals and other components to realise a near-field communication device that can used as a direct swap for existing restaurant till rolls. 

“By introducing just a small amount of graphene in the manufacturing process, we can translate its unique range of benefits into our ‘smart’ receipt rolls,” he added.

Lowry trial

The team has begun a live trial of the system at the River Restaurant of The Lowry Hotel in Salford.

 “We are delighted to be the flagship hotel in the UK trialling this new enhanced safety payment method to our customers,” said Adrian Ellis, General Manager at The Lowry Hotel.

“The University of Manchester first isolated graphene, so it really is a privilege to be using a product that not only makes the customer journey safer and more convenient, but is also supportive of the city in which the product was founded.”

Thanasis added: “The trial will be used to demonstrate the technology and provide validation of this pay-at-table solution, along with potentially demonstrating other benefits for restaurants, including increasing customer lifetime value, repeat visits and tips, and reducing table-turn time”.

Bridging the gap

Concurrent with the Lowry Hotel trial, the team is conducting further research and development on the system at the University’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) ‘Bridging the Gap’ programme. This will include moves towards an ‘all-graphene’ system, removing the metal components to make the product more sustainable and recyclable.

James Baker, CEO of Graphene@Manchester said: “This is a great example of how we can help industry partners - including local SMEs - to accelerate graphene products towards the marketplace and deliver real-world benefits.

“Payper isn’t just about convenience,” he added. “The card machine is the one thing that all the waiting staff and at least one person from every table will touch over the course of a shift in a restaurant. If you can reduce those touchpoints with a truly contactless system, you have an elegant solution to reducing the risk of Covid transmission.”

Tags:  Graphene  Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre  James Baker  Payper Technologies  Renate Kalnina  Thanasis Georgiou  University of Manchester 

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Winners announced for 2020 Harari Graphene Enterprise Award

Posted By Graphene Council, Monday, July 20, 2020

Winners of £70,000 prize fund were announced on Friday, 10 July at the Masood Enterprise Centre’s 2020 Harari Awards celebration evening, which was streamed online through its Facebook page.

The Eli and Britt Harari Graphene Enterprise Award, in association with Nobel Laureate Sir Andre Geim, is awarded each year to help the implementation of commercially-viable business proposals from our students, post-doctoral researchers and recent graduates based on developing the commercial prospects of graphene and other 2D materials.

Six teams were shortlisted and pitched their graphene-related business proposals to a panel of professional judges in bid to secure funding to drive their novel ideas forward.

First prize of £50,000 was awarded to PhD student Scott Dean and his team Graphene Trace, for Sleep Mapp - an idea aimed at those who suffer with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), by offering a novel technology for sleep monitoring, diagnostics and therapeutics. Disguised as a mattress protector, Sleep Mapp utilises graphene sensor technology to monitor and respond to every toss and turn. Their Active Sleep Control technology uses machine learning to identify sleep postures that exacerbate OSA and helps correct them - all without masks or sports equipment.

Scott Dean from the School of Natural Sciences commented: “We’re extremely proud to be this year’s winners. This award marks a lot of hard work from an incredible team and the start of an exciting journey for sleep mapp”. He added: “the prize money will enable us to produce a professional prototype, conduct thorough market research and software development, not to mention the professional support we’ll have access to through the University.”

In second place and claiming £20,000 prize was Robert Ataria with his idea Graphene Green Concrete, a proposal to make high performance graphene recycled aggregate concrete. This transformative approach will look to develop formulations for specific construction applications, to drastically improve the rate of using recycled aggregate concrete in high value applications without environmentally demanding processes of carbon footprint for new constructions.

Robert commented: “I am thrilled to have won this award; the funding from this competition is timely as it will allow me to bring Graphene Green Concrete closer to practical applications by developing a full set of commercially applicable results.”

The quality of the business proposals presented in this year’s finals was exceptionally high. Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and chair of the judging panel for this year’s competition said: “Our commitment to the support of entrepreneurship across the University has never been stronger and is a vital part of our approach to the commercialisation of research.

"The support provided by Eli Harari over the last seven years has enabled new and exciting ventures to be developed."

Physics alumnus and founder of global flash-memory giant, SanDisk, Dr Eli Harari joined the event as a guest speaker, who tuned in from the US. He shared his entrepreneurial journey with the audience, and the importance of inventing and commercialising. Harari told the viewers: “what you have here in Manchester is like the early days of Silicon Valley.”

The award is co-funded by the North American Foundation for The University of Manchester through the support of Dr Eli Harari and his wife, Britt.  It recognises the role that high-level, flexible, early-stage financial support can play in the successful development of a business targeting the full commercialisation of a product or technology related to research in graphene and 2D materials.

Tags:  2D materials  Andre Geim  Dr Eli Harari  Graphene  Luke Georghiou  Masood Enterprise Centre  Robert Ataria  SanDisk  Scott Dean  University of Manchester 

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WIMI Hologram AR Plans To Invest In R&D in The Chip Field To Seek Technological Breakthroughs

Posted By Graphene Council, Friday, July 10, 2020
WIMI Hologram Cloud (NASDAQ:WIMI) has intensified its efforts in semiconductor business. On the one hand, the application demand of the semiconductor industry in the field of holographic 3D vision has been growing rapidly. On the other hand, it will help the company extend the holographic 3D vision software field from the application layer down to the chip field, and through the strategic direction of combining soft and hard holographic 3D vision software solution, namely, the strategic derivative upgrade to the semiconductor field. WIMI deep in the field of holographic 3 d visual software technology accumulation, with hundreds of related patents and software copyright, so in the direction of semiconductor business extends, and the future is proposed by integrating companies core technology advantages of IC design companies, or with the current chip factory set up a technology research and development with strong proxy technology joint venture company, to implement the supply chain upstream of the semiconductor research and development design, technical services, marketing, etc.

WIMI, the holographic giant that is the first part of holographic AR in the world, has created the third-generation 6D light field holographic technology products through years of original research and development, and its imitation is as high as 98%. WIMI has signed strategic alliances with relevant enterprises, and the scope of cooperation involves film and television, media, games, children’s education, animation, hardware and so on. It mainly involves the establishment of joint ventures, AR INTELLECTUAL property IP, holographic intellectual property IP and holographic entertainment content IP cooperation, as well as various commercial resource sharing and so on. WIMI will form hundreds of patent protection according to its own 295 related patents, and ensure that users can experience the latest and most advanced holographic AR high simulation digital product experience at the international level through strict patent protection means and technical confidentiality. At present, WIMI mainly focuses its business application scenarios in five professional fields, such as home entertainment, lightfield cinema, performing arts system, commercial publishing system and advertising display system.

According to introducing, WIMI cover from the holographic AI computer vision synthesis, holographic visual presentation, holographic interactive software development, holographic AR online and offline advertising, holographic ARSDK pay, 5G holographic communication software development, holographic development of face recognition, holographic AR technology such as holographic AI development in face of multiple links, holographic cloud is a comprehensive technology solutions provider.

According to a post on Samsung’s website, the company has taken a step toward the “ideal semiconductor” by discovering new semiconductor materials that will make future semiconductor chips smaller and faster. The Samsung Institute of Electronics and Technology recently said it had discovered a new material, “amorphous boron nitride (A-BN)”, in collaboration with Ulsan Institute of Technology. The discovery comes 16 years after a team at the University of Manchester in the UK found graphene to be an “ideal new material”.

The article on Samsung’s official website says the key to solving the challenge of semiconductor materials is to look at two-dimensional materials. One of the challenges based on existing silicon semiconductor technology is “increasing integration”. As integration increases, more information can be processed quickly, but technical problems such as interference between electrical circuits also arise. Two-dimensional materials are becoming the key to solving the industry’s woes, so they are attracting a lot of attention. The two-dimensional material has the properties of a conductor, non-conductor or semiconductor at even the smallest atomic units of matter, and is so thin and difficult to bend that it is about 100,000th the thickness of A4 paper.

The most representative of these is graphene. For many years, The Samsung Electronics Technology Institute has been researching and developing graphene for large-scale semiconductor manufacturing applications. Based on this source technology, they have recently focused on graphene for wiring. As semiconductors become more integrated, the lines between the circuits become narrower and the impedance increases. This is due to graphene’s compact hexagonal structure, which ACTS as the thinest, hardest and resistive barrier.

Amorphous boron nitride is a derivative of white graphene. It consists of nitrogen and boron atoms, but has an amorphous molecular structure that separates it from white graphene. In addition, in order to miniaturize the semiconductor, it is regarded as one of the core elements of the medium. It is one of the key elements of the semiconductor miniaturization and can play a role in preventing electrical interference. In other words, it is the key to overcoming the problem of electromagnetic interference as semiconductors become more integrated. “In order to apply graphene to semiconductor engineering, it requires technology that can be generated directly on silicon wafers at 400°C,” said Shin Hyun Jin, a researcher at Samsung Electronics Research Institute.

The team not only ensured the lowest dielectric constant of 1.78 in the world, but also demonstrated that the material could be produced on a large scale in a semiconductor substrate at 400°C, thus taking a step towards process innovation. Amorphous boron nitride can be used in semiconductor systems including memory semiconductors (DRAM, NAND, etc.) and is expected to be used in memory semiconductors for server servers that require high performance.

A semiconductor is a substance whose conductivity is intermediate between that of a conductor and an insulator. Compared with conductors and insulators, semiconductor materials are the latest to be discovered. It was not until the 1930s, when purification techniques for materials were improved, that the existence of semiconductors was truly recognized by academia. Semiconductor is mainly composed of four parts: integrated circuit, photoelectric device, discrete device and sensor. Since integrated circuit accounts for more than 80% of the share of devices, semiconductor and integrated circuit are usually equivalent. Integrated circuits are divided into four categories according to product types: microprocessor, memory, logic devices and emulators. Usually we call them chips.

At present, many technology giant qualcomm, mediatek, nvidia and other related companies in artificial intelligence, 5G, the Internet of things, and other areas of the chain are layout, the demand for upstream suppliers is no longer a simple electronic components or products supply, to the supplier’s technical service ability, providing comprehensive solution ability, and one-stop value-added service ability are put forward higher requirements.

Holographic technology is simply through AR, let the audience can watch the holographic characters or open hole in the real scene of real reduction, simulation is as high as 98% above, immersive, micro user experience can be described with stunning beauty holographic patterns, the combination of the holographic technology and entertainment viewer can become a character in the movie/stage, involved in the film/stage pre-made environment and plot, let the viewer, as it were, feel oneself is a member of a movie/stage viewer is the main character in the movie or a part of it, and continue to interact with content to produce films/stage.

Analysts at Maxim Group, LLC have a ‘buy’ rating on WIMI with a $8 price target, meaning the stock has 200% upside. According to Maxim Group, LLC equity research on WIMI, WIMI is the leader in the augmented reality (AR) long-term growth market. Zion Research expects the global augmented reality (AR) market to grow at a compound annual rate of more than 63% by 2025. Companies are increasingly using augmented reality for a variety of purposes. Frost &; Sullivan expects the total revenue of China’s holographic AR industry to grow by 83 percent, from 3.6 billion yuan (about $5 billion) in 2017 to 455 billion yuan (about $65 billion) in 2025.

According to the annual report, WIMI business began to expand gradually in 2017, with revenues of 192 million yuan, 225 million yuan and 319 million yuan in 17-19, with growth rates of 17% and 41%, showing an accelerating momentum. In terms of net profit, it was 73 million yuan, 89 million yuan and 102 million yuan respectively in 17-19 years.

From the above data WIMI, it is not difficult to see that the business growth of WIMI is in a benign development trend. From 2017 to 2019, the financial revenue of the three years has been increasing continuously. The amount of revenue generated from this market is increasing and the market expansion is expanding.

WIMI Hologram Cloud (NASDAQ:WIMI) will invest more funds, through to the longitudinal extension in the field of semiconductor, and the future of the integration of on semiconductor assets or cooperate with chip factory, will greatly improve the WIMI strength of technical services, further enhance viscosity related to the current customers, at the same time, based on a higher added value, enhance the WIMI sales ability of the company. WIMI plans to develop semiconductor market-related businesses in the next three years, and WIMI is expected to see new growth.

Throughout the past half century, the rapid development of semiconductors has provided the basis for our technological explosion. But developments in 5G seem to point the way. Looking back on the glorious history of semiconductor development, also to a certain extent represents the history of human civilization. If the development of machines liberated human labor, the development of semiconductors liberated human computing power.

Tags:  2D materials  amorphous boron nitride  Graphene  hexagonal  Maxim Group  Samsung Institute of Electronics and Technology  Semiconductor  Shin Hyun Jin  Ulsan Institute of Technology  University of Manchester  WIMI Hologram Cloud 

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Manchester MBAs identify opportunities for graphene

Posted By Graphene Council, Monday, June 29, 2020
The International Business Consultancy Project is the capstone of the Full-time MBA. Our MBAs work in multinational teams to pitch for a client with a global business challenge, then undertake three months of full-time consultancy with international travel. This year, one team worked with the University's Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) to identify new opportunities in the energy storage market.

Graphene was first isolated in 2004 by two researchers at The University of Manchester, Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov. Andre and Kostya won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their pioneering work. Graphene is the lightest, most conductable material on earth with potential applications across many fields - from medicine to energy. The project took our MBAs overseas to Germany, France, the USA and India. We caught up with them to find out more.

Why did you choose this client brief?

The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) is an R&D facility at The University of Manchester, which focuses on driving the commercialisation of graphene and other 2D materials. The project aimed to provide a strategic market study to find potential market opportunities for GEIC in the Energy Storage Device (ESD) space (supercapacitors and batteries in particular).

We chose this project because it was very comprehensive: it included market research, partnership identification, financial modelling and projection. The team members could therefore utilise their different skill sets to contribute to the project. In addition, the energy storage device industry presented a new market for the team to explore and develop knowledge of.

How did you approach the brief?

The team used a 'bottom-up' approach instead of the traditional 'top down' methodology to analyse the key findings and provide recommendations. This idea came from our supervisor, Dr. Mike Arundale, who gave us a lot of support during the project. To be specific, the team produced a detailed case study of one specific company for each market segment, then made a projection for that segment and finally analysed the whole industry.

Which countries did you travel to and why?

Based on the secondary research, the team identified the USA, China, South Korea, Japan, India, Germany and France as the potential markets for GEIC to focus on and explore future partnership opportunities in. 45 interviews were held across Germany, France, the USA, China and India between February 6 and March 13, 2020. 

Due to the unexpected Coronavirus situation, in the end the team was only able to travel to the USA, India, Germany and France. This meant that 30 of the interviews were held face-to-face and 15 were conducted by conference call with Chinese, Japanese and South Korean companies.

What was the biggest challenge and what was the biggest achievement? 

 "At the initial stage, the biggest challenge was understanding the technical information and benefits of graphene. The biggest achievement was that we were able to understand the industry and reach the goal of finding potential partnerships for the client. It was a collaborative effort." - Lissete Flores, Peruvian

"The most challenging task was getting connections for primary research. My project was to search for partnerships for the client in three major markets: the USA, Europe and India. As we needed to build connections from scratch for face-to-face interviews or site visits, my team discussed how to ‘tackle’ interviewees strategically with the best professional practice in order to build professional relationships and get appointments for in-person interviews." 

"The biggest achievement was reaching out to potential partners for our client. Since our client's business is based on the licensing fee from partners, the potential deals are red blood being pumped to the heart of the business." - Pann Boonyavanich, Thai

"The biggest challenges were developing a good technical understanding of graphene as a 2D material and its numerous applications, which span multiple industries, and understanding the advantages of graphene and how it can be used in real-life applications. These elements were key to delivering the commercial aspects of the project. This became further challenging because the technology is quite nascent and there is not a lot of in-depth information available on the internet, which resulted in the team having to rely mostly on primary research."

"The biggest achievement was the team being able to successfully navigate the uncertainty brought on by the Covid-19 crisis and deliver on all the deliverables outlined in the project." - Ritwick Mukherjee, Indian

"For me, the biggest challenge was finding the relevant people to interview, getting them to agree to an interview and then fitting this into our travelling window. Some people were on annual leave and some could not meet with us for reasons related to Covid-19. Others did not reply till we were actually in the US, and a couple of companies worked with the US military and therefore most of their operational information was classified. Pann and I were on the east coast of the US and had to manage travelling and interviews in Boston, New York, Tennessee, Detroit and Chicago. Memorable journeys to interview potential partners include taking four flights in one day (a round trip from New York to Tennessee); and driving for six hours through a snowstorm to get to an interview in Chicago."

"The biggest achievement was realising during an interview that the company had synergies, problems or solutions that would match well with our client. It was very rewarding to be able to provide partnerships that would generate new revenue streams for our client and therefore justify their faith and investment in our team. Getting closer to each other and working well as a team was also a big achievement." - Timeyin Akerele, British-Nigerian

"Apart from the above mentioned by my team members, I also want to highlight that we had to change our interview plan entirely from China to Europe within just one week. We did the research again and identified Germany and France to replace the original destination, China, due to the unexpected Coronavirus situation. It was intensive to replan the interview travel and redo the budget, but it was also a valuable learning experience. This has motivated me to always be resilient when faced with uncertainties."

"The biggest achievements were, firstly, the team successfully helped the client find potential partners with detailed contacts for further discussion by using a new approach, the 'bottom-up' approach. Secondly, the team had a great chance to gain knowledge of the energy storage devices industry, and the value that advanced materials such as graphene can bring to the industry. Personally, I had no knowledge of this before." - Xingbo Wu, Chinese

What were the results and recommendations? 

The total market size of supercapacitor applications globally is worth around £2.27 billion in 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of ~20% between 2020-2030 and three key application industry segments: consumer electronics, automotive and power grid.

Companies that have an R&D gap that could be filled by graphene, in order to better meet customer demands, are potential partners for GEIC. For example, large manufacturers who lack supercapacitor product lines, or small manufacturers.

When targeting potential partnerships, the team recommended that GEIC should highlight its competitive position. GEIC is the only establishment offering capabilities in graphene, batteries, supercapacitors and biomedical fields, with a focus on both research and the commercialisation and scale-up of new technologies. 

How would you sum up your experience in three words?   

Lissete: Challenging - Teamwork - Fun

Pann: Dynamic - VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) - Exciting

Ritwick: Pushing - New - Frontiers

Timeyin: Amazing - Unpredictable - Teamwork

Xingbo: Uncertain - Unforgettable - United

Tags:  2D materials  Graphene  Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre  Lissete Flores  Pann Boonyavanich  Ritwick Mukherjee  Supercapacitor  Timeyin Akerele  University of Manchester  Xingbo Wu 

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Manchester launches spin-out to bring innovative water-filtration technology to market

Posted By Graphene Council, Saturday, June 20, 2020
Scientists and innovation experts from The University of Manchester have worked together to successfully develop a new, market-ready technology using 2D materials that could be a game-changer for the water filtration sector.
ollowing an 18-month technical development and business planning programme - funded by the University - the team of innovators has launched a spin-out company called Molymem Limited to help take the new membrane product into the marketplace. The technology has applications in the pharmaceutical, wastewater management and food and beverage sectors.

The breakthrough development of a high-performing membrane coating is based around a new class of 2D materials, pioneered by Manchester researchers Professor Rob Dryfe and Dr Mark Bissett (pictured right), working with Clive Rowland, team leader for the Molymem project and the University’s Associate Vice-President for Intellectual Property.

Clive explained that membranes are used globally for separation applications in a wide range of valuable markets. “But all of these applications can be expensive,” he added. “They consume high energy and are prone to fouling - and, as a result, require frequent deep cleaning with corrosive chemicals. This causes lost production time and, due to the harsh nature of chemicals being used, it also leads to a deterioration in membrane quality over time.”

Using chemically modified molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), which is widely available at low cost and easily processed, Molymem has developed an energy-efficient and highly versatile membrane coating.

Fast-track innovation
Much of the lab-to-market work was carried out at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), which is dedicated to the fast-tracking of pilot innovation around graphene and other 2D materials. Graphene is the world’s first man-made 2D material and offers a range of disruptive capabilities.

Molymem is now ideally placed to raise investment capital to embark on its commercial journey – and interest has already been shown by industrial partners.

James Baker, CEO Graphene@Manchester, said: “The Molymem project demonstrates how the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre can help to accelerate a breakthrough development in materials science into a brand-new, market-ready product.

“Molymem will now be mentored within the Graphene@Manchester innovation ecosystem as part our portfolio of graphene-based spin-outs. This includes bespoke support such as fundraising for future business development and rapid market development.”

Clive Rowland added: “Over the summer, I will hand-over the team leadership to Ray Gibbs, who is managing the University's graphene and 2D materials spin-out portfolio. Ray will look to fundraise and help take Molymem to the next stage of its exciting innovation journey.”

Tags:  2D materials  Clive Rowland  Graphene  Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre  James Baker  Mark Bissett  Rob Dryfe  University of Manchester  water purification 

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Graphene smart textiles developed for heat adaptive clothing

Posted By Graphene Council, Thursday, June 18, 2020
New research on the two-dimensional (2D) material graphene has allowed researchers to create smart adaptive clothing which can lower the body temperature of the wearer in hot climates.

A team of scientists from The University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute have created a prototype garment to demonstrate dynamic thermal radiation control within a piece of clothing by utilising the remarkable thermal properties and flexibility of graphene. The development also opens the door to new applications such as, interactive infrared displays and covert infrared communication on textiles.

The human body radiates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves in the infrared spectrum (known as blackbody radiation). In a hot climate it is desirable to make use the full extent of the infrared radiation to lower the body temperature which can be achieved by using infrared-transparent textiles. As for the opposite case, infrared-blocking covers are ideal to minimise the energy loss from the body. Emergency blankets are a common example used to deal with treating extreme cases of body temperature fluctuation.

The collaborative team of scientists demonstrated the dynamic transition between two opposite states by electrically tuning the infrared emissivity (the ability to radiate energy) of graphene layers integrated onto textiles.

One-atom thick graphene was first isolated and explored in 2004 at The University of Manchester. Its potential uses are vast and research has already led to leaps forward in commercial products including; batteries, mobile phones, sporting goods and automotive.

The new research published today in journal Nano Letters, demonstrates that the smart optical textile technology can change its thermal visibility. The technology uses graphene layers to control of thermal radiation from textile surfaces.

The successful demonstration of the modulation of optical properties on different forms of textile can leverage the ubiquitous use of fibrous architectures and enable new technologies operating in the infrared and other regions of the electromagnetic spectrum for applications including textile displays, communication, adaptive space suits, and fashion. Professor Coskun Kocabas

Professor Coskun Kocabas, who led the research, said: “Ability to control the thermal radiation is a key necessity for several critical applications such as temperature management of the body in excessive temperature climates. Thermal blankets are a common example used for this purpose. However, maintaining these functionalities as the surroundings heats up or cools down has been an outstanding challenge.”

Prof Kocabas added: “The successful demonstration of the modulation of optical properties on different forms of textile can leverage the ubiquitous use of fibrous architectures and enable new technologies operating in the infrared and other regions of the electromagnetic spectrum for applications including textile displays, communication, adaptive space suits, and fashion.”

This study built on the same group’s previous research using graphene to create thermal camouflage which was able to fool infrared cameras. The new research can also be integrated into existing mass-manufacture textile materials such as cotton. To demonstrate, the team developed a prototype product within a t-shirt allowing the wearer to project coded messages invisible to the naked eye but readable by infrared cameras.

“We believe that our results are timely showing the possibility of turning the exceptional optical properties of graphene into novel enabling technologies. The demonstrated capabilities cannot be achieved with conventional materials.

“The next step for this area of research is to address the need for dynamic thermal management of earth-orbiting satellites. Satellites in orbit experience excesses of temperature, when they face the sun and they freeze in the earth’s shadow. Our technology could enable dynamic thermal management of satellites by controlling the thermal radiation and regulate the satellite temperature on demand.” said Kocabas.

Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov was also involved in the research: “This is a beautiful effect, intrinsically routed in the unique band structure of graphene. It is really exciting to see that such effects give rise to these high-tech applications.” he said.

Tags:  2D material  Coskun Kocabas  Graphene  nanoparticles  textile  University of Manchester 

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First Graphene Joins Europe’s Flagship Programme

Posted By Graphene Council, Tuesday, June 9, 2020
First Graphene Ltd has been accepted as an Associate Member of the EU Graphene Flagship. The company joins the €1 billion EU funded programme at a crucial time as the Flagship transitions from R&D to commercialisation and requires graphene manufacturers with industrial supply capability.

The Graphene Flagship has a budget of €1 billion and coordinates nearly 170 academic and industrial research groups in 21 countries and has more than 90 associate members.  FGR through its UK subsidiary is the first Australian entity to be admitted to the consortium.

The Graphene Flagship is tasked with bringing together academic and industrial researchers to take graphene from the realm of academic laboratories into European society in the space of 10 years, thus generating economic growth, new jobs and new opportunities.

This follows the Company also joining the BSI and ISO/TC229 working groups for the development of graphene characterisation standards, thereby ensuring alignment of the Company’s quality processes with the emerging international standards.

First Graphene intends to stay at the leading edge in terms of controlling the quality of graphene related products.  The Company continues to invest in its processing capability through measurement and automation and is a Tier 1 Member of the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre at the University of Manchester with direct access to world-class analytical equipment and techniques and supporting expertise.  The Company will continue to invest in analytical methods and process tools to ensure world leading PureGRAPH® product quality for our customers.

Craig McGuckin, Managing Director for First Graphene Ltd, said, “FGR joining the EU Graphene Flagship at this time is auspicious, as FGR continues to commercialise it PureGRAPH® range of graphene powders.  As the world leader in the production of large volume, high quality graphene powders membership of this organisation is at an appropriate time as various projects transition from R&D to commercialisation.”

Tags:  Craig McGuckin  First Graphene  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  University of Manchester 

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