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UK government pumps £50m into graphene research

If there’s one thing we know for sure, then it’s that politicians need absolutely no help whatsoever in standing next to successes and running like fury from anything that’s likely to go wrong. So what have Clegg and Cameron decided to stand next to now?  KitGuru dons a lab coat and a portable electron scanning microscope before glancing toward a future where the UK leads the world in materials science.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that creating a sheet of graphite that’s a single atom thick, might involve a well floured kitchen surface, some burnt out matches and a tasty roller. Not so. It’s actually proven incredibly difficult to make the stuff. From the time the phrase ‘graphene’ was first coined 24 years ago, it was 17 years before Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov completed their Nobel-winning research and actually managed to extract single atom thick graphene from regular graphite.

So why all the fuss and why a £50m government donation to back a ‘Britain is Great for Graphene’ project?

Judging from the rumours, most of the tories attending the conservative conference this week will have been hoping that graphene makes better back stabbing knives

Well, at the most basic level, once it’s much easier/cheaper to produce in bulk, it is extremely strong, very light, recyclable and has inherent anti-bacterial properties – making it perfect for milk cartons etc. Early research indicates that, overall, food will last longer in graphene packaging.

In related areas, it can help make DNA sequencing much quicker, allow engineers to build the greatest capacitors in the history of the world and create better solar cells that we ever thought possible.

And all of that is simply the ‘side show’ to the main event.

In the middle of the summer, IBM managed to create an integrated circuit using graphene technology. Not only was it able to run, stable, at 10GHz – it was also happy to carry on working normally at 127 degrees.

We’re still not there. Even though a completely stable IC at 10GHz is impressive, it’s not nearly as impressive as the 100GHz transistor IBM gurus built last year [Yes, but can you make tennis rackets out of it? – Ed].

Dear Little Puppy, don't worry if Cameron's greasy ways make you feel ill, graphene is a natural anti-biotic

KitGuru says: Will graphene replace silicon as the ‘technology material of choice’ for the next 30 years? It’s hard to say with 100% certainty, but the government injecting a much needed dose of intelligent investment into graphene research is a great idea. Certainly a better use of tax payer’s money than bailing out parasitic banks.

Comments below or in the KitGuru forum. More informed comment over on Optics.org.

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