Graphene: the transformative new material driving economic growth
The discovery of graphene at the University of Manchester has led to a rapid global take-up of new technologies, with at least $200 million in recent commercial investment being made in graphene production across 210 companies.
Graphene, a form of carbon, is only one atom thick but tougher than diamond and a better conductor than copper. Basic research started in 2001 by Manchester researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov on properties of thin materials demonstrated the potential of graphene to underpin huge technological changes across an incredibly broad range of industries. This work led to their award of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.
Blue-chip companies including IBM, Samsung, BASF, Nokia, Sandisk, and Fujitsu are now actively developing graphene-based technologies. Between 2008 and 2012, 7,740 patents were published for everything from new materials to innovative electronics, and the first set of graphene-based products to reach the market are already generating revenues exceeding $10 million per month.
The commercial activity surrounding graphene has been matched by global shifts in public research and innovation funding of at least $2.4 billion. A 2011 study found significant funding for graphene-related R&D in 26 European countries, while the USA, South Korea, Singapore and China have also committed substantial funds to graphene research and commercialisation.