New graphene service to kick-start UK’s ‘miracle material’ industry

2 mins read

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at the University of Manchester, have launched a new service which is intended to help the UK to cash in on the ‘wonder material’, graphene, by providing the ‘missing link’ for industrialisation of the material.

Commercially, graphene comes in several forms, such as flakes in a powder or liquid, each with variation in their properties, yield, and reproducibility of the product. Material standardisation is crucial to industry uptake but, international standards for graphene are in their infancy. As a result, manufacturers are unable to verify that the graphene that they are working with has the desired properties. In fact, as it is unregulated, companies cannot even be sure what material they are buying, a point recently highlighted by the FCA in a warning for investors.

The new graphene characterisation service, led by the organisations leading the standard for graphene, will allow companies to understand the properties of the material they are working with in greater detail. By providing this service, NPL and NGI hope to accelerate the industrialisation of graphene in the UK.

Graphene is thought to have a range of potential applications including inexpensive water purification systems; greener, more efficient cars and planes; flexible phones and solar cells, and even biomedical applications such as wound healing and cancer treatments. Even Internet of Things technologies are set to benefit from wider graphene use as a result of more effective sensors.

Early adopters of graphene technology are already seeing benefits, but in order to fulfil its massive potential, it needs to be industrialised – which will see the quality and reproducibility of the material on offer increase, due to standardisation, and the price of graphene drop, due to economies of scale.

NPL led the development of the first graphene ISO standard, on graphene terminology, and in collaboration with the NGI, produced the NPL Good Practice Guide on the characterisation of graphene. This expertise will help t underpin the new characterisation service, offering NPL’s robust measurements for the properties of commercially-supplied graphene, and comment from the NGI on the material properties and its suitability for selected application(s).

By providing reliable, accurate and consistent measurement and assessment of graphene, and giving industry the information it needs to scale up the production and application of the material, this initiative will help to ensure the UK remains a leader in the graphene industry. It will also help to foster graphene innovation hubs across the UK by supporting companies like those seen in Silicon Valley, with a similarly effect on the economy.

Graham Stuart, Minister for Investment, said: “Graphene is a revolutionary product that can make internet connections faster, filter salt water and make phone screens unbreakable, and is clearly a prime example of the innovative ability of British companies to change the landscape of manufacturing on a global scale."