Sweden pushes graphene research

The UK might have been the place where wonder material graphene - an allotrope of carbon in sheets just one atom thick - was discovered, but that doesn't mean the rest of the world is going to sit back and leave us to it: a group of Swedish universities has announced its own research into the material.

Since its discovery by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the Manchester University - a breakthrough for which they were jointly awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics - graphene has been touted as the solution to all the world's ills: IBM has produced 100GHz transistors and integrated circuits based on graphene, while the University of California at Berkeley believe it holds the key to boosting the speed of optical networking systems tenfold.

A more recent discovery - that 'ribbons' of graphene will stand upright if given a 'boot' of another material, forming nanowalls one atom thick - could help chip designers smash the nanometre barrier, creating chips with components a fraction the size of current processors and drawing a tiny amount of power for equal or better performance.

In order to ensure the UK's place at the forefront of graphene research, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced a £50 million investment project to create the Graphene Global Research and Technology Hub in Manchester - something other nations are keen to emulate.

Sweden is the latest to jump on the graphene bandwagon, with Chalmers, Uppsala and Linköping universities receiving investment totalling £3.78 million from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation in order to organise a group of 30 engineers.

"We are now achieving critical mass, and will benefit from valuable cross-fertilization between several research areas, all of which are involved in graphene," explained Mikael Fogelström, the project coordinator. "The money will be used for everything from producing graphene to developing a variety of products, with basic research into experimental and theoretical physics along the way."

With the funding expected to enable Chalmers to run its graphene research project for the next five years, Fogelström is setting his sights still higher. “It would be a good idea to get together with more graphene research groups, and perhaps form a national research centre. That would be a good step to take for pursuing EU flagship funds."