We’ve all heard of Manchester’s wonder material graphene.
Apparently, it’s fantastic and could be used in seemingly infinite ways.
It’s the world’s thinnest material – around one million times thinner than a human hair – and is 200 times stronger than steel.
First isolated at The University of Manchester in 2004, it’s also the first two-dimensional material at just one-atom thick.
Its potential to revolutionise technology is exciting to say the least.
But will graphene live up to the hype? And how will it affect your everyday life?
Some of the products experts are developing are incredible. They could soon be in your home.
From graphene trainers to graphene cars, there are big plans.
Scientists will be able take things to the next level thanks to the opening of a new world class engineering centre.
The £60m Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre – known as GEIC – will allow companies to team up with academics to test new products before taking them to market.
Scientists and industries know graphene has the potential to revolutionise many areas of technology, but graphene products are only just starting to emerge on the market.
James Baker, CEO of Graphene Manchester, says graphene is reaching a ‘tipping point’, where its promise will soon be realised in commercial products.
The GEIC, neatly pronounced ‘geek’, is key in the plan to take the material from the lab into people’s homes.
“While graphene is still what we call a teenager, we are now starting to see it appearing in different products and applications,” says James.
“The GEIC is very much around how you take that science and work with industry to take it into pilot productions and scale up. So, making graphene materials but more importantly, adding that to a composite, adding it to an ink, adding it to a metal, to a coating or into a battery. The focus of this centre is around products and applications.”
A core team of engineers from the university will be working in the GEIC labs with companies to help make their ideas and concepts meet market demands.
These are some of graphene products either already on the market, or in development:
A company called inov-8 launched the world’s first ever graphene sports shoe this summer.
inov-8 is the first brand to use the Nobel Prize winning material in sports footwear by fusing graphene with rubber for the soles.
In testing, the G-SERIES shoes lasted for 1,000 miles and were 50 per cent harder-wearing than traditional soles.
There is already a strong interest in graphene in China.
Chinese telecoms firm Huawei has already launched the first graphene cooled phone, known as the Mate 20 X.
Graphene works as a solid state cooling system, meaning the phone burns less energy cooling itself. In short, the phone’s battery lasts longer.
It may still be in development, but the graphene-enhanced bionic hand is a glimpse into the future.
Designed by Haosen Yang, the ‘MCR-Hand’ is lighter and stronger than other prosthetics currently on the market.
The car is an example of how graphene can be incorporated into existing products to improve performance by making them more lightweight and reduce fuel usage.
The world’s first graphene car, the BAC Mono, was unveiled in Manchester in 2016, and was thrown into the spotlight when the Duke of Cambridge sat in the drivers’ seat during a visit to Manchester.
Ford announced it would be the first automaker to use graphene in its vehicles, starting with the Mustang and F-150 this year.
Ford have been trialling graphene-reinforced foam covers on noisy components such the fuel rail, pumps and belt-driven pulleys.
The parts were found to be quieter, stronger and more heat resistant.
Graphene-based membranes can be used in the purification of water.
The National Graphene Institute have collaborated with Lifesaver to develop a portable water filter. The idea is to create a small water filter for people who may not have access to sanitised water.
Researchers are using a graphene oxide coating on the filters’ fibres to remove small particles, including toxic heavy metals like arsenic.
The research, however, is still in the very early years.
Developers are already experimenting with graphene-enhanced batteries.
Graphene has the potential to make batteries last longer and charge much quicker, either in seconds or minutes rather than hours.