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The Graphene Flagship: Presenting the World’s Most Versatile Material

Graphene FlagShip

The Graphene Flagship is a flagship created by the European Commission. Because Graphene Flagship is a FET (Future and Emerging Technology) flagship, it means that it operates with regard to large-scale, science-driven research initiatives that will have a transformational impact on our planet and our future as a species. Producing many ambitious programs, the project requires the joint cooperation of the EU and the United States for extended support. Born after a series of pilot programs that took place in 2011, Graphene is, in layman’s terms, the biggest EU research project to date, with a budget of 1 million euros.

Graphene so far

Because Graphene Flagship is a large-scale project, it will have to go through many different phases before it is completed, and its goal is attained. 2016 proved to be a very important year for Graphene Flagship, as the project has finally completed its 30-month Ramp-Up Phase under the 7th Framework Program, thus marking the beginning of the “Core 1”, the first two-year phase of steady-state funding under the Horizon 2020 Program which is expected to run until October 2023.

In the 30-month Ramp-Up phase, the Graphene Flagship has included over 150 partners, over 50 associate members and over 15 partnering projects, with more people joining the project on a monthly basis. In this time period, the focus of the Graphene Flagship has also changed from exploratory research to applied innovation, something that people got to experience at this year’s Mobile World Congress by trying out the new graphene-based technologies that are the end goal of the flagship.

Spanning a lot of fields, the graphene-based technologies envisioned by the ones working in the Flagship may seem straight out of Science Fiction for many of us. The best example for this is the planned Internet of NanoThings, which would imply a continuous connectivity between the devices we will implant in different objects and even our very bodies that will facilitate different daily activities and replace current existing macro technology. If you thought the Internet of Things was something revolutionary, the scientists working in the Graphene Flagship are on a whole other level of innovation.

Graphene at MWC 2017

The 2017 edition of the Mobile World Congress took place in Barcelona, on the week of 27 February – 2 March, and was a hit with mobile tech fans all over the world who either traveled or kept refreshing their pages in order to witness the biggest technological improvements in the mobile market. However, it was only the ones lucky enough to have the time or money available to visit the Mobile World Congress that got to witness the true innovation graphene-based technology brings to the table.

Graphene Flagship was present at the 2017 edition of Mobile World Congress in order to win people over by providing them with just a taste of what’s coming in the future. Dubbed the “Graphene Experience Zone”, the section that was reserved to the flagship consisted of five different areas illustrating the different aspects of life graphene-based technology will influence. Namely, the five areas were: IoT and Sensors, Wearables and Health, Energy, Datacoms, and Composites. In the center area of the Experience Zone, the graphene-enhanced bodywork of the BAC Mono supercar could be observed by visitors.

IoT and Sensors

The IoT and Sensors area featured a brand new, graphene-based ultrasensitive infrared sensor that could be tested by visitors in order to convince them of its ability to see through fog and smoke. This sensor will serve as a true step forward in future braking systems for self-driving cars. In the same area, visitors could observe a smartphone-enabled bio-sensing device made with 3D printed insoles that can be used to monitor an athlete’s performance. Additionally, there were some conductive inks, touch and strain sensors on display too.

Wearables and Health

Wearables and Health was a popular section with visitors, as it displayed technology which improves one of the most active mobile markets of the moment. From a robotic arm that could be controlled by a bracelet with graphene sensors to a graphene wellness sensor capable of accurately sensing heart rates and displaying them on nearby devices to a retinal implant demonstration that proves that graphene is able to interface with the brain fluently, this section had a lot to offer.

graphene

Next up, the Energy section awaited with a graphene heater that gets instantly hot on command, which means that households or workplaces will never have to be cold again, not even for a brief moment. Additionally, visitors got to learn about a graphene-based supercapacitor featuring high charge rates.

In the Datacoms section of the Graphene Experience Zone, a graphene-based modulator could be observed by visitors. The modulator is able to transmit over long distances, much like the graphene Wi-Fi receiver that was also on display.

The star of the show, however, was undoubtedly the Composites section of the Experience Zone, which featured the beautiful BAC Mono supercar with graphene-enhanced bodywork and graphene composite rear wheel arches that reduce the car’s weight. A motorcycle helmet and a drone based on graphene were also on display.

Why Graphene?

The MWC 2017 showcase was enough to spark the interest of many people and convince them of the bright future graphene-based technology has. However, some may ask: Why Graphene? Why put such a large emphasis on this material?

The answer is that graphene is one of the most versatile materials known to date, as was proven in its many uses at MWC 2017. Being the world’s first two-dimensional material, it is the thinnest, strongest and lightest material, while also being flexible and very electrically and thermally conductive. Graphene has a lot to offer in many domains, but the mobile market will seemingly be influenced deeply by the revolutionary material, as new, portable technologies will start to use the material. Perhaps one of the most ambitious networking cooperation projects of the moment, 5G technology will also have to benefit from the incredible qualities of graphene.

With so many great examples of its usage and a lot of time left in the Graphene Flagship schedule, who knows what else these hardworking people will improve on?

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