29 September 2014
All eggs in the graphene basket?
It seems there is a procession of announcements using a template that claims 'graphene can be used for (insert application here)'.
In one of the latest claims for the so called wonder material, researchers from the University of Surrey and Trinity College Dublin have determined that graphene treated nanowires can be used to produce flexible touchscreens.
Fair enough, but how much graphene research is answering real needs and how much is answering the needs of academics for research projects?
Work continues in the UK to commercialise graphene, with the construction of the National Graphene Institute (NGI) in Manchester and now plans being laid for the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, intended to complement the NGI's work.
Yet other materials are available. Take MoS2, for example. Three years ago, a Swiss research team suggested MoS2 could enable transistors that consume a mere fraction of the power consumed by a silicon transistor. Two years ago, a team from MIT concluded MoS2 could enable new electronic devices and suggested it was time for graphene to 'move over'. Now, researchers from Southampton have joined in, claiming that MoS2 not only matches graphene's properties, but can also emit light.
The need to look for new materials to take the industry beyond silicon is becoming more pressing, but the focus should be on materials, not on one material.
So should the NGI have a remit wider than graphene? And have too many people got caught up in what could be seen as a 'graphene rush'?
* If you want to find out more about the NGI's work, then make sure you attend the New Electronics conference at the Electronics Design Show, where James Baker, the NGI's business director, will outline the route to graphene commercialisation.