Case #1: Graphene – nanomaterial for the future

What is this technology area all about?

The wonder material graphene is an atom-thick layer of carbon which was awarded with the Nobel Prize in 2010. It has a number of extraordinary properties: graphene is transparent, impermeable to gases and moister, bendable, strong, super thin, electrically and thermally conductive.

How could this technology be applied?
The startling properties of graphene could impose a variety of solutions for technical challenges like bendable transparent electronics including displays and batteries, multifunctional composites with thermal and electrical conductivity, high-performance sensors, barrier layers in packaging materials, biomedical electrodes, water purification, to mention a few. One specific area is multifunctional light composites that is of high interest for airplanes and other vehicles, where added functionality could be anti-icing, heat dissipation, protection towards lightning and radiation, sensors, etc. Graphene is an emerging technology and it is most likely that the main impacts will be in the form of applications in other areas such as Life Science, Energy and ICT.

How could this technology be applied to the defense sector?
Possible product segments in the security and defense areas are:
• Lightweight electronics, displays and batteries;
• Signature management in IR region;
• Multifunctional composites – lightweight, anti-icing coating, protective coatings, sensors;
• Ultrafast and highly sensitive sensors;
• Lightweight vehicles;
• Protective equipment, ballistic vests.

How does this technology match up against the Defense Innovation Initiative?
The Defense Innovation Initiative has identified miniaturization and nanotechnologies as especially relevant for future defense technologies. Sweden has a world-leading position in this area. We are the host of the European Graphene Flagship Project due to our advanced research and development in this area. Sweden also has a strong industry base eager to collaborate with researchers to use the material in future products.

What Technology Readiness Level are we talking about?
Most effort in the graphene area so far lies in TRL 1–6. There are a lot of ongoing activities in companies where graphene is a part of demonstrator projects, in Europe as well as in the US and Asia. Displays, coatings, composites and sensors is among those areas where we believe that most products will appear in the near future.

What are the thresholds against further advancement?
Industry and academia need to be working closer together, scaling up the academic results into real products and industrial production. Standardization – characterization of different graphene materials and grades is needed (and ongoing). This will help both buyers to find the right material and suppliers to start manufacturing in a larger scaler.
Health and environment knowledge (making sure graphene-based materials are not toxic/harmful) is ongoing work, but needs to be further investigated for each new product.

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