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Millions for Graphene Technology
March 29, 2012   
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Poland’s National Center for Research and Development will allocate zl.60 million for the development and application of innovations based on graphene—a revolutionary new material that could have myriad hi-tech applications and may even replace silicon in the electronic devices of the future.

The funds, available under the Graf-Tech program, are expected to enhance the competitiveness of Polish science and the economy and strengthen cooperation between research institutions and businesses interested in applying research results.

The Graf-Tech program supports research and development as well as preparations for implementation. The program aims to encourage the development and implementation of products using the unique properties of graphene. Under the program, research consortiums and scientific centers teaming up with industrial partners will be able to apply for co-financing for projects involving industrial research and development and preparations for implementation.

Graphene has unprecedented properties. Transparent, flexible and durable, it could prove to be a perfect material for use in electronics. It could be used to make electrodes in LCDs and touchscreens, transistors, microchips and probably many other components.

Graphene offers a huge range of potential applications in industries such as aeronautics and the automotive industry, energy generation and storage, medicine, materials engineering, and environmental protection, in addition to electronics.

The Graf-Tech program will be financed from both public and private funds. Co-financing will be granted to anywhere from 12 to 20 projects, with a maximum subsidy of zl.5 million for a single project. Research centers can count on 100-percent reimbursement of their research and development costs.

According to the NCBiR, the role of Polish researchers in international research publications on graphene is growing steadily. In 2007-2008, Polish researchers were responsible for 15 such publications, followed by 36 in 2010, and over 30 in 2011. In the 2004-2006 period, publications on graphene by Polish researchers were cited less than 50 times; by 2010 the figure grew to over 500 citations.

A large number of research and development projects focusing on the production and application of graphene are being carried out worldwide. They are conducted by both research centers and large multinational companies, consortiums and organizations.

The European Science Foundation has launched the four-year EuroGraphene Program, which spans the 2010-2013 period and aims to encourage cooperation among European research centers to gain a better insight into the physical, mechanical and electro-mechanical properties of graphene, as well as to expand the possibilities of its chemical modification. The program also covers optoelectronic studies and those related to the development of devices using graphene.

Among the seven projects selected for implementation by international consortiums, two involve Polish institutions and are co-financed by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education. These are the Epigrat project, handled by the Institute of Electronic Materials Technology (ITME) and the University of Warsaw, and the Elograph project by the Institute of Electron Technology.

In 2011, the European Commission selected six initiatives that it believes are most likely to make a breakthrough in science and become the basis for the development of technological innovations in the future. One of them is the Graphene Flagship project whereby a consortium will spend 1.5 million euros to identify the needs and prepare a plan of work on graphene and its derivatives—from basic research through application to the development of new technology and equipment or improved products and processes. The consortium is supported by a Scientific Advisory Committee made up of four Nobel Prize winners, including the discoverers of graphene, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov. The project also involves global industry professionals. This year, the two most promising technologies will have a chance to secure long-term financing totaling tens of millions of euros annually.

According to experts working with the NCBiR, Poland plays a significant role in research on graphene, yet this role needs to be strengthened further. At the moment, only a few projects are being financed from both EU structural and national funds that involve the development of graphene production technology, modeling graphene growth and support for the protection of industrial property rights related to methods for producing this unique material.

Karolina Olszewska
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