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From the Publisher
March 27, 2014   
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As the world races to harness the potential of graphene, Polish researchers in the central city of £ód¼ have teamed up with an industrial partner to use this 21st-century wonder material to build an innovative fuel tank for cars powered by hydrogen.

Graphene is the revolutionary new material that is stronger than diamond and more than 100 times harder than steel. With the new technology, hydrogen-powered cars will be able to travel 1,000 or so kilometers without the need to stop for refueling.

The Polish project—called “graphene nanocomposite for reversible hydrogen storage” and co-financed by the National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR)—is being carried out by the Institute of Materials Science and Engineering at the Technical University of £ód¼ together with Seco/Warwick, a company based in the western town of ¦wiebodzin and listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. The project manager is Prof. Piotr Kula, director of the Institute of Materials Science and Engineering.

“Countries around the world are trying to outpace one another in graphene technology,” says Kula, who is also vice-rector of the £ód¼ University of Technology. “Research into graphene, which is an allotropic form of carbon, still holds many secrets. But for the first time, we do not have to play catch-up with the rest of the world, because we all started out at about the same time. We are already working with an industrial partner to gain a competitive advantage on the market.”

The project’s budget is zl.6.2 million, of which nearly zl.4.9 million comes from the NCBiR; the rest will be provided by Seco/Warwick SA. While the researchers aim to develop a graphene-based material for reversible hydrogen storage in the automotive sector, in the future this material is also expected to be used in other industries: for filtering gas, separating various mixtures in technological processes as well as in flexible electronics and textronics.

The automotive sector is only one of the targets in the project, says Kula. There are also many other possible applications for the new material: filters, sensors, screens for protection against electromagnetic radiation.

The new graphene nanocomposite being developed by Kula’s team also has the potential to be used in the space industry in the future.

Meanwhile, a team of scientists from four Polish research centers led by Prof. Bogdan Wo¼niak is also aiming high: the scientists—among them marine researchers, computer scientists, physicists and oceanographers—plan to use information from 40-odd satellites to offer an ultramodern system for satellite observations of the Baltic Sea. The main objective is to effectively protect the sea’s resources, warn against risks of environmental disasters, such as oil spills, and accurately predict changes in the weather in order to ensure conditions for safe navigation.

The system is being developed as part of SatBa³tyk, a zl.40 million project co-financed by the National Center for Research and Development and managed by the Institute of Oceanology run by the Polish Academy of Sciences in the coastal city of Sopot.

In addition to the Institute of Oceanology, the project research consortium is composed of the Institute of Oceanography at the University of Gdańsk, the Institute of Physics at the Pomeranian Academy in S³upsk, and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at the University of Szczecin.

The researchers will use special algorithms to determine the key features of the Baltic ecosystem—such as the amount of solar energy reaching the surface of the sea and the amount of organic matter produced as a result of photosynthesis.

The Baltic Sea is particularly vulnerable to contamination because it is a semi-enclosed sea surrounded by countries with highly developed industry. But the new system will ultimately be suitable for use on any body of water throughout the world and may thus become a major Polish export item. It is expected to attract the interest of companies from many sectors of the economy as well as organizations and institutions dealing with environmental protection as well as tourism, crisis management, defense and national security.
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