|A triumph of design: ImagineNano Graphene
2013 was held in Bilbao this year, home of the
Unrealistic expectations about the potential powers of the
super-carbon graphene could hinder the materials
development cycle, according to some developers.
Speaking at the ImagineNano Graphene 2013
conference in Bilbao, Tomas Palacios, associate professor of
electrical engineering at MIT said that, although there were
thousands of scientifically validated ideas for graphene
applications, only a handful would make it to
Palacios showed delegates a graph plotting the
development cycle of new scientific discoveries, showing that
from an initial technology trigger the line soars rapidly to a
peak of inflated expectations for the inventions
This is then followed by a deep trough of
disillusionment when many of the anticipated applications fail
to materialise, before slowly climbing again along a shallower
"slope of enlightenment" and finally reaching a plateau of
"For graphene, we need to reduce the size of this
peak and trough, and thereby shorten the time it takes to get
to productivity," Palacios said, noting that it takes an
average of 20 years for inventions to develop from the point of
discovery to full productivity.
He added that it was a tough ask to expect
graphene to compete with silicon in the near future: "The
economics are against us, and the work of thousands of silicon
engineers is against us," he said.
Rahul Fotedar, CEO of Norwegian start-up Graphene
Batteries AS, agreed that the level of hype surrounding
graphene made speaking about the reality of the materials
"Graphene has a lot of extraordinary properties,
but many of these exist at the level where you wont ever
use them," Fotedar told IM.
"People come to me and say, if I charge my
phone with a graphene battery, will it take only a few seconds
and last for a month? When you tell them no,
thats not possible, they lose interest," he
Fotedar also said that in Europe the excitement
generated around graphene research tended to result in funding
for universities, which was not the best way to yield
"There is so little applied research going on in
Europe universities are swallowing up money but we are
not seeing the products at the other end. In Asia, I think it
is different; the connections between universities and
industries are better," he said.
"At our company, we dont make exaggerated
promises. Instead, we aim to deliver what we believe we can do,
and show that graphene can make a realistic impact on the
technology sector," he added.
Graphene Batteries, which was founded in 2012, is
looking to develop batteries which Fotedar said could vastly
improve the energy storage capacity of consumer electronic
devices, using natural graphite as a graphene-source
Fotedar believes that this is an economical
alternative to using more expensive synthetic precursors, and
said that the company was planning to collaborate with the
Norwegian graphite junior Nordic Graphite for a possible supply
He added that Graphene Batteries has already seen
interest from battery, watch and mobile phone manufacturers for
Others were less scathing of the expectations for
Wolfgang Boch, head of the European flagship for
future and emerging technologies (FET) programme said that the
amount of media and political interest in graphene science was
unprecedented, and this was helping to drive scientific
excellence in the field.
"The FET initiative was not a politically driven
decision, it was based on science," Boch said, adding that
public support for graphene underpinned the FETs goal of
enabling collaborative research and development in the
Amaia Zurutuza, scientific director for the
Spanish technology firm Graphenea, which aims to produce
custom-made graphene products for industry, was also optimistic
that the demands on graphene science would help to yield
"game-changing" new products.
Zurutuza described graphene as a "disruptive
material" a material that provokes disruptions to power
balances in numerous materials and markets and said that
graphene was proving that it deserves this status.
Graphenea, which numbers Nokia and Sigma-Aldrich
among its customers, has a large portfolio of graphene products
under development, according to Zurutuza.
Her presentation focused on solar cells, flexible
batteries and optical transistors, applications on which the
company has worked with customers such as the Institute of
Photonic Sciences (ICFO) and the Technical University of Madrid
to bring to an advanced point of development.
"We believe that the graphene market will grow,"
Zurutuza said, "but we know we have to address certain
challenges such as the cost, scalability and reliability of
graphene material, plus the need to match its properties with
"And we must remember that it will take time to
get there," she added.