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From the Publisher
June 3, 2014   
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Not a week passes without news of some new application of graphene being discovered in completely unexpected—at least to laymen—areas of life. This new wonder material, which is ultralight yet over 100 times harder than steel, has an unusually close relationship with the market. It is so useful to new technologies that it almost immediately finds a direct application in one form or another. It’s as if the market has been waiting for it for a long time. No wonder then that graphene has become a subject of continual public interest. We report on the many uses of graphene in almost every issue of The Polish Science Voice.

In this issue, we focus on the use of graphene in ultrafast photodetectors. Graphene is at the heart of lidar systems, the equivalent of standard radar but involving the use of remote sensing technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light.

Graphene will also make it possible to build a system to track fast-moving objects—the civilian, commercial equivalent of missile tracking systems in the military, says Mariusz Zdrojek from the Faculty of Physics at the Warsaw University of Technology, who manages the Ultrafast Graphene Photodetectors project.

This project is based on a marriage of science and industry crowned with a market conclusion. To develop their next-generation, ultrafast, infrared detectors based on graphene, researchers from technical universities in Warsaw and ŁódĽ have teamed up with engineers from the Vigo System company from Ożarów Mazowiecki near Warsaw, which has for years produced infrared detectors. The company’s products are sold throughout the world and are even sent into space.

“We were knowledgeable on graphene, and they were experts on detectors. The combination of the two resulted in this particular project,” says Zdrojek.

According to Mirosław Grudzień, CEO of Vigo System and vice-president of the Polish Chamber of Commerce for High Technology, innovation is the ability to convert knowledge into money. Poland has long had people with knowledge, and also people with the skills to sell products on the market, but these two areas were worlds apart. Knowledge was concentrated in research and development institutions, while the ability to sell a product and marketing expertise was the realm of industry, Grudzień says. “When setting up the [Vigo System] company, I decided that I would go global with my product and create conditions in the company for prominent Polish scientists to work,” says Grudzień. “And such people work in my company today. This means that my response to the needs of the market is practically instantaneous. Research projects being conducted in my company take three months to complete, while at a university that would take three years.”

Contrary to appearances, projects such as that involving ultrafast detectors have a lot in common with another project featured in this issue of The Polish Science Voice—the common denominator is innovation and the market. In the case of both these projects a product has been created or is being developed for customers. But that’s not where the similarities end. Anna Walkowska, managing director of Homplex, a Warsaw-based interior design company that took part in a three-month “startup acceleration program” in Silicon Valley in the United States late last year—as part of a project co-financed by Poland’s National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR)—tells us how people can easily have their home interiors decorated to meet their needs, tastes and capabilities. Walkowska’s company provides online stores with 3D visual models of interior designs incorporating products offered by these stores. This is innovation as well—and a highly promising field of technology.
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