Strength that’s only an atom deep

China Daily (Canada) - - PEOPLE - By CECILY LIU cecily.liu@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China can play a glob­ally sig­nif­i­cant role in graphene de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion through sci­en­tific re­search, co­or­di­nat­ing in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tific ex­changes, and pro­duc­tion, said Robert Young, a renowned graphene sci­en­tist and a pro­fes­sor of poly­mer science and tech­nol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Manch­ester.

Young, who is lead­ing a ma­jor graphene col­lab­o­ra­tion between the UK’s Na­tional Graphene In­sti­tute and the Bei­jing In­sti­tute of Aero­nau­ti­cal Ma­te­ri­als, voiced sup­port for the Chi­nese govern­ment’s fo­cus and push on de­vel­op­ing graphene, adding that he is im­pressed by the good, fun­da­men­tal knowl­edge of graphene al­ready ac­quired by Chi­nese science or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Graphene is one of the most in­ter­est­ing in­ven­tions of mod­ern times, and has the po­ten­tial to trans­form the field of ma­te­rial science. A thin layer of pure car­bon, it is tougher than a di­a­mond, yet very lightweight, and eas­ily con­ducts elec­tric­ity and heat. It has been used for a wide va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions, from strength­en­ing ten­nis rack­ets to build­ing semi­con­duc­tors.

Graphene was first iso­lated from the min­eral graphite at the Uni­ver­sity of Manch­ester by An­dre Geim and Kostya Novoselov in 2004. The achieve­ment earned them the No­bel Prize in physics in 2010. Ow­ing to its short his­tory, its com­mer­cial po­ten­tial has yet to be un­locked.

“China’s high-tech man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, abil­ity to in­vest heav­ily in the graphene sec­tor and its abun­dance of highly qual­i­fied graphene in­dus­try tal­ent all con­trib­ute to its advantages in the graphene in­dus­try,” Young said.

He said China is go­ing in the right di­rec­tion in giv­ing graphene an im­por­tant role in its poli­cies, such as in the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), which sets out the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment ob­jec­tives.

China and the UK can co­op­er­ate greatly in graphene re­search in two key ways, Young said. “First, the ex­change of tal­ent is im­por­tant. For ex­am­ple, in my team there are sev­eral Chi­nese PhD students do­ing graphene re­search, and I would ex­pect they will in the future re­turn to China and share their knowl­edge and ex­per­tise.”

The other con­tri­bu­tion China can make to the global graphene field is the host­ing of aca­demic and in­dus­trial con­fer­ences, to fa­cil­i­tate more dis­cus­sions and ex­change of ideas in the area, he said, adding that one ex­am­ple is the GraphChina con­fer­ence in Qing­dao in Au­gust.

Graphene has an im­por­tant role to play for China, es­pe­cially as it has been dis­cov­ered at a time when China’s elec­tron­ics in­dus­try is also de­vel­op­ing rapidly and will be able to make the most of this ma­te­rial, Young said.

“Chi­nese in­dus­tries are much more so­phis­ti­cated com­pared with 20 years ago, and graphene can also greatly help China achieve its am­bi­tion of a struc­tural shift to­ward high­end man­u­fac­tur­ing,” he said.

Cur­rently, 70 per­cent of graphene’s raw ma­te­rial, graphite, is found in China, giv­ing Chi­nese graphene man­u­fac­tur­ers a big ad­van­tage. To make the most of such an ad­van­tage, China has also es­tab­lished five graphene in­dus­trial parks to ac­cel­er­ate the in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion of the ma­te­rial. The parks are lo­cated in Changzhou, Wuxi, Ningbo, Qing­dao and Chongqing.

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the UK’s Na­tional Phys­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory, China has ap­plied for 47 per­cent of the world’s to­tal Robert Young

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Robert Young says China and the UK can co­op­er­ate greatly in graphene re­search.

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