Has the EU’s Graphene Flagship hit its 10-year targets?

By | December 23, 2022

In the spring of 2010, physicist Jari Kinaret received an email from the European Commission. The EU’s executive arm was seeking pitches from scientists for ambitious new megaprojects. Known as flagships, the initiatives would focus on innovations that could transform Europe’s scientific and industrial landscape.

Kinaret, a professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, examined the initial proposals.

“I wasn’t very impressed,” the 60-year-old tells TNW. “I thought they could find better ideas.”

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As it happened, Kinaret had an idea of ​​his own: growing graphene. He decided to submit the topic for consideration.

That proposal lay the foundation for the Graphene Flagship: the largest-ever European research program. Launched in 2013 with a €1 billion budget, the project aimed to bring the “wonder material” into the mainstream within 10 years.

On the eve of that deadline, TNW spoke to Kinaret about the project’s progress over the past decade — and his hopes for the next one.

Graphene arrives in Europe

Scientists have pursued the single sheet of carbon atoms that constitute graphene since 1859, but its existence wasn’t confirmed until 2004. The big breakthrough was sparked by a strikingly simple product: sticky tape.

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, two physicists at the University of Manchester, would regularly hold “Friday night experiments,” where they’d explore outlandish ideas. At one such session, adhesive tape was used to extract tiny flakes from a lump of graphite. After repeatedly separating the thinnest fragments, they created flakes that were just one atom thick.

The researchers had isolated graphene — the first two-dimensional material ever discovered.

The researchers donated their graphite, tape and graphene transistor to the Nobel Museum