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Graphene Flagship Spearhead Projects to Solve Europe’s Environmental Crisis

Press release   •   Sep 24, 2019 14:28 CEST

Graphene Flagship experts from various disciplines highlighted the project's progress in the Open Forum.

European Commission funded research project, the Graphene Flagship, held its annual Open Forum discussion on Monday 23 September. As the first presentation of Graphene Week 2019 – Europe’s largest 2D materials conference – the Open Forum announced the latest advances from research within the Graphene Flagship and its potential to improve Europe’s environmental crisis.

Dr Kari Hjelt, head of innovation at the Graphene Flagship, led the presentation with an overview of the project’s progress so far. Now, half-way through the ten-year initiative, the Graphene Flagship boasts an impressive 155 partners across 22 European countries. Looking to the future, the Flagship has ambitious plans to continue its growth past its planned 2023 end date.

Hjelt announced eleven application-oriented spearhead projects, all of which are in their inception phase. The projects will focus on using graphene technology to solve some of Europe’s common industrial and environmental concerns, such as issues related to water purification and energy storage. Projects include graphene for applications in water purification, automotive, energy, photonics, solar cells, aviation, optoelectronics and health and safety.

Airbus, for example, has ambitious goals to be the first organisation to take advantage of emerging materials. Dr. Elmar Bonoccurso, senior scientist and project manager for surface technology at Airbus, followed to explain how widely used materials for the aviation industry, such as metals and ceramics, will always be prevalent, but graphene will provide the essential enhancements to their properties to take the sector to the next level.

“We want to improve the functions and properties of these materials. Whether that’s metal, ceramics or polymers,” explained Bonocurso. “Graphene has already proven it can provide mechanical reinforcement, improved electrical and thermal conductivity, as well as impressive electrostatic or magnetic properties. Further development could prove useful for other aviation applications, such as lightning protection and energy storage.”

The Open Forum concluded with a panel discussion with Jari Kinaret, director of the Graphene Flagship, Anna Motta, global research and development (R&D) manager at Talga Technologies, Maria Smolander, research team leader at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Luca Banszerus of a researcher at RWTH Aachen University in Germany and Dusan Losic, a professor from the University of Adelaide.

The experts discussed the potential environmental advantages of graphene development, including improvements to current recyclability practices.

“As graphene research and applications continue to develop, we can replace environmentally unfriendly materials used in industry,” explained Motta. “We can also improve recyclability in many cases. For example, carbon-based materials with a barrier film of metal can create huge problems related to recyclability. If your barrier film is made of carbon, then recycling and the environmental impact is significantly reduced.”

This sentiment was echoed by Smolander, whose area of research focuses on developing environmentally friendly and biodegradable solutions in electronics, with a specific focus on wearable applications. When quizzed on her predictions for the future of graphene research, Smolander cited her ideal outcome as, “the creation of a biodegradable, compostable and environmentally friendly wearable sensor.”

“The activities of the Graphene Flagship will be continued in Horizon Europe,” explained Jari Kinaret, director of the Graphene Flagship. “Of course, there are questions relating to funding, duration and the way the Flagship activities will be implemented but we know for sure that they will continue. 2023 is not the end.”

Graphene Week 2019 is currently being held at the Marina Congress Centre in Helsinki, Finland. As Europe’s largest conference for graphene and related materials (GRMs), more news, developments and announcements will be shared throughout the coming week. For more information on Graphene Week 2019, please visit the Graphene Flagship website:

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Editor’s note: The Graphene Flagship is one of the largest research projects funded by the European Commission. With a budget of €1 billion over 10 years, it represents a new form of joint, coordinated research, forming Europe's biggest ever research initiative. The Flagship is tasked with bringing together academic and industrial researchers to take graphene from academic laboratories into European society, thus generating economic growth, new jobs and new opportunities.

Keep up with the latest from the Flagship here:

About the Graphene Flagship

The Graphene Flagship is research, innovation and collaboration.

Funded by the European Commission, the Graphene Flagship aims to secure a major role for Europe in the ongoing technological revolution, helping to bring graphene innovation out of the lab and into commercial applications by 2023. The Graphene Flagship gathers nearly 150 academic and industrial partners from 23 countries, all exploring different aspects of graphene and related materials. Bringing diverse competencies together, the Graphene Flagship facilitates cooperation between its partners, accelerating the timeline for industry acceptance of graphene technologies. The European Commission’s FET Flagships enable research projects on an unprecedented scale. With €1 billion budgets, the Graphene Flagship, Human Brain Project and Quantum Flagship serve as technology accelerators, helping Europe to compete with other global markets in research and innovation.

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