Brits delve into commericalizing carbon super material

Britain plans to produce airplanes that could fly unscathed through electrical storms and wind-turbines which could endure cyclones.

The British government announced Dec. 27 it will invest 21.5 million pounds (C$33.65 million) into research and development for investigating how graphene, a two-dimensional carbon material, can be commercialized for use in sectors like aerospace, energy and medicine.

Imperial College London will lead the effort through three research projects while partnering with various industrial companies, such as France-based aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

“The new funding will enable us to bring graphene a step closer to useful applications by helping us explore the physical and mechanical properties of this remarkable material, as well as its behaviour at high frequency,” said Professor Neil Alford, one of the lead researchers, in a written statement.

Researchers will explore how combining graphene with other materials could potentially improve airplane parts, such as making them lightning-strike resistant. Other applications to be probed are making wind turbines more scratch resistant and better withstand extreme weather conditions. They will also examine how the super material responds to high-frequency electromagnetic waves and applying this it to the development of new medical scanning technology.

British-based physicists Andre Geim’s and Konstatin Novoselov’s extensive ground-breaking research on graphene won them the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. They define graphene as a flat monolayer of carbon atoms packed into a 2-D honeycomb lattice that is a basic building block for other graphitic materials.

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Image courtesy Texas A&M University