A new research centre at the University of Manchester in England aimed at marketing products and technologies made from a “wonder material” known as graphene will be called The Masdar Building.
Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, Masdar, is the principal funder of the purpose-built Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), which held its formal “topping out” ceremony attended by UK and UAE government representatives and university officials.
Graphene is a super-strong, highly flexible nanomaterial with unique properties that could be used for many applications in the future, including energy storage solutions, water purification technology, lightweight airplanes, mobile phones, and even clothing.
Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer of Masdar, said: “Through its support of the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, Masdar is proud to be part of the journey of discovery that is turning the promise of graphene into practical, commercially viable solutions.”
“The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, which we today name The Masdar Building, will help accelerate the development of graphene applications demonstrated in the laboratory into real-world solutions,” Al Ramahi added. “The centre supports the business strategy of Masdar – to participate in advanced clean technologies as soon as they show commercial potential – and the wider commitment of the UAE to promote the knowledge economy.”
Speaking at the event Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester said: “We are grateful to all of the funders for their investment into what promises to be an incredible asset. This building, and the work which will take place within it, will give us a huge number and range of opportunities.”The GEIC will enhance collaboration between corporate partners and academics in graphene and related 2D materials research, including a partnership between the University of Manchester and Masdar Institute, part of the Khalifa University of Science and Technology.
Scientists from both universities have been studying graphene in three main areas. The first is aimed at developing 3D-printed foams for use in industries like aerospace and robotics.
The second project incorporates graphene sheets with ion exchange membranes to enhance water treatment and desalination technologies. The third programme seeks to produce graphene-based inks as micro-sensors for various energy and defence-related applications.
“Two-thirds of all technological innovations are dependent on advances in materials, and more than 70 per cent of the gross national product of Western economies is directly or indirectly linked with the development of materials,” added Masdar CEO Mohamed Al Ramahi. “Masdar’s support of the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre positions the UAE at the heart of a critical knowledge industry.”
The Masdar Building, designed by world-renowned architect Rafael Vinoly, is 8,400 square metres in size and located on the University of Manchester’s North Campus. It will house pilot production facilities and conduct research into other advanced materials.
The other funders of the GEIC alongside Masdar include the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Innovate UK, the European Regional Development Fund, and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.