UK’s graphene industry lags behind the world

31 October 2013
By Tereza Pultarova
Mobile version
Share |
Graphene could be used in the next-generation solar panels

Graphene could be used in the next-generation solar panels

Although it was UK researchers who discovered graphene, the country’s industry is failing to harness its commercial potential.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has warned in a statement released today that while over 7,500 graphene-based patents have been filed worldwide in 2013, only 54 – less than 1 per cent belong to the UK.

On the other hand, China holds over 2,200 graphene patents followed by South Korea with 1,754. South Korean electronics giant Samsung alone holds 407 graphene-related patents.

The situation is rather disconcerting, the IMechE believes, as the UK universities are without any doubt the world leaders in graphene research.

The wonder material, believed to have the potential to trigger a revolution in many fields including electronics, biomedicine and photovoltaics, was first isolated in 2004 by a Manchester University team led by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov who were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for this ground-breaking discovery.

The UK industry, however, is failing to harness graphene’s full potential.

The IMechE suggests the UK government joins forces with the industry and academia to develop a coherent strategy to help the country better exploit the opportunities.

“At the moment, there’s a very real possibility that this incredible British material could one day be best known for never fulfilling its enormous potential,” said Dr Helen Meese, Head of Materials at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

“The UK is at the very forefront of graphene research, but academics are increasingly concerned that little is being done to encourage industry to develop practical uses,” she said, explaining that the graphene community has to agree on a timescale for commercialisation and develop a clear road map for on-going research and development.  

“If these issues are not addressed soon, the UK could miss out on the limitless potential of the material it has spent so long developing,” she said.

The IMechE believes that mass production of graphene should be at the end of the road map.

Among the envisioned applications of graphene could be photovoltaic coating of glass windows, enabling modern buildings, such as London’s Shard to collect energy for heating and lighting through the windows.

Graphene is also believed to hold a key to future batteries that would be able to charge in a second and to print electronic devices onto materials.

Only 0.33nm thick, graphene is the thinnest and allegedly the strongest material ever created. Despite being almost a million times thinner than a human hair, it is harder than diamond and about 300 times harder than steel.

The IMechE suggests, in the first stage, collaborative groups should be established to enable innovation and application to develop simultaneously, while creating a taskforce to focus on mass production methods.

SME’s should participate in creating a supply chain for graphene-based technology production, while possible skills shortage should be address and identified at the early stages.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1607

"As the dust settles after the referendum result, we consider what happens next. We also look forward to an international summer of sport."

E&T jobs

  • Design Delivery Leader, Palace of Westminster Restoration & Renewal (R&R) - Engineering Lead

    House of Commons
    • City of Westminster, London (Greater)
    • Circa £65,000 (There may be more for an exceptional candidate)

    You will lead on a number of engineering infrastructure and associated workstreams under direction from the Deputy Director

    • Recruiter: House of Commons

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Engineer, Network Equipment

    Energy Networks Association
    • Westminster
    • £49-58k per annum, dependent on experience

    Manage issues and working groups relating to all types of equipment and assets used on the UK Transmission and Distribution Networks.

    • Recruiter: Energy Networks Association

    Apply for this job

  • Programme Manager, Network Resilience

    Energy Networks Association
    • Westminster
    • Competitive salary, dependent on experience

    Co-ordinate the network resilience, emergency planning and the Single Electricity Number (SEN) work in the ENA Engineering team.

    • Recruiter: Energy Networks Association

    Apply for this job

  • Assistant Professor (Tenure Track) of Smart Building Solutions

    Premium job

    ETH Zurich
    • Zurich, Canton of Zürich (CH)

    The successful candidate is expected to develop a strong and visible research programme in the area of control and diagnostics of building systems

    • Recruiter: ETH Zurich

    Apply for this job

  • Process Controls Leader

    Premium job

    Phillips 66
    • Humber Refinery, South Killingholme, North Lincolnshire DN40 3DW
    • £60k - 75k plus extensive Compensation and benefits package, dependent upon experience

    Experienced Process Control Leader providing leadership and technical support for Oil Refinery. Extensive Compensation and benefits package.

    • Recruiter: Phillips 66

    Apply for this job

  • Regional Technical Support Manager

    Premium job

    Siemens
    • Warwick, Warwickshire

    You will be required to lead the regional Customer Services strategy and resources to maximise Customer satisfaction.

    • Recruiter: Siemens

    Apply for this job

  • Communications Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Hampshire, Portsmouth
    • Negotiable

    Communications Engineer Would you like to play a key role supporting the UK's Maritime Communications Infrastructure? We currently have a vacancy for a Communications Engineer at our site in Portsmouth. As a Communications Engineer, you will be carrying o

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • MetOp-SG Receiver Project Manager

    Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
    • STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell, Oxfordshire
    • £37,213 - £50,926 (depending on experience)

    Project Manager to oversee the development, production and test of spaceflight components and integrated receiver systems

    • Recruiter: Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

    Apply for this job

  • Financial Controller

    MBDA
    • Stevenage
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    An opportunity has arisen to manage a diverse range of financial controlling activities within the Equipment Team (ET) and newly Centres of Excellence (CofEx) function...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • Weapon System Product Support Manager

    MBDA
    • Stevenage
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    The Opportunity An opportunity has arisen within MBDA?s Customer Support & Services organisation for a strong competent leader to deliver a key Weapon capability primarily...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T