Masdar News

Graphene has potential to play a leading role in the global sustainability agenda

22 Jul 2020

‘Wonder material’ graphene has the potential to advance sustainability across all sectors of the market, James Baker, Chief Executive Officer of Graphene@Manchester, told Masdar employees during a live virtual event earlier this week.

Following its isolation in 2004 by two University of Manchester scientists – Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov – graphene has been identified as the world’s “thinnest known material.” The material’s unique properties include being stronger than steel, thermally and electrically conductive, and acting as a permanent membrane to allow some molecules to pass through, but block others.      

“Previously, the challenge for new materials has been that it can take many tens of years from discovery of the new material into commercialisation of the product into the marketplace,” said Baker. “We are working to change that.”

Graphene@Manchester, which comprises the National Graphene Institute (NGI) and the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), aims to accelerate the transition from discovery to marketplace through its unique innovation model.

“Some of our first partners in the GEIC started just over a year ago, but already we have early prototype products in the marketplace being tested. If we can take that forward, the GEIC will be a key catalyst of the products and of the science to develop applications for commercialisation in the marketplace,” he said.   

Baker also discussed the potential use of graphene for multiple applications in Abu Dhabi, including at Masdar City, where it could be utilised in construction, desalination, energy storage and transport. Another sector where graphene could prove to be a game-changer is in the use of hydrogen for propulsion or energy storage.

“Hydrogen has some unique challenges around storage and transport, and graphene and other 2D materials may play a significant role in enabling the transportation or use of hydrogen efficiently in the future.”

During the event, Baker highlighted the important role that collaboration plays in the translation of scientific discoveries into commercial products.

“It is very much about partnership and collaboration, and building relationships with companies in Abu Dhabi is one of our priorities over the next period of time,” he said.

Looking to the future, Baker wants to follow the example of leadership in sustainability set by Masdar to achieve the ambitious targets of the UK and Manchester to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and 2038, respectively, by focusing on “innovation, investing in R&D and investing in new materials.”

Masdar is the principal funder of the Masdar Building at the University of Manchester, which houses the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre. The purpose-built facility was inaugurated in December 2018 and specialises in the rapid development and scaling of graphene and other 2D materials applications.