Jestico + Whiles-designed institute for 'wonder' material to be built in Manchester following €1bn research grant
A new €71m (£61m) research and incubator facility for graphene at the University of Manchester, UK, has been given planning consent. Designed by Jestico + Whiles, the 7,600 sq m National Graphene Institute is scheduled to open in 2015 and will include a 1,500 sq m research lab.
Offering almost unlimited potential for uses from IT to medicine to energy, graphene is the world’s strongest and thinnest material. Composed of a single layer of carbon atoms, it is stronger than diamond, has the same flexibility as rubber and conducts better than copper. Suggested uses for the material have included flexible touchscreens, lighting within walls and enhanced batteries.
The five-storey building will house two clean rooms together with laser, optical, metrology and chemical laboratories, a seminar room and offices. An important element of the design includes locating the main clean room on the lower ground floor in order to minimise vibrations.
An integral part of the design is the mix of labs and offices on all floors so that individual research teams have access to all the various facilities. This decision comes after more than 150 companies, including globally-recognised electrical companies, expressed interest in operating within the new graphene institution.
The European Commission recently awarded €1bn, the biggest grant ever awarded for research excellence, to 126 research groups to develop commercial graphene applications. With this increase in graphene-based research and a global interest in the production of the material, the need for a research facility in the UK is paramount.
First isolated in 2004 by Russian-born professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester, the scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 and received knighthoods for their work in graphene. Building on their knowledge of the material, the new facility will be designed under the supervision of Professor Novoselov.
Despite the pioneering work being carried out at a UK university, Britain has been accused of lagging behind other countries in terms of commercialising the use of graphene. China is the country with the biggest number of graphene patent publications since 2007 with 2,204, followed by the USA and South Korea, according to figures published by UK-based patent consultancy, CambridgeIP.
The new institute will therefore put Britain at the forefront of graphene research, with €44m (£38m) of the funding coming from the British government and further funds coming from the European Regional Development Fund. As well as the new facility at the University of Manchester, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has said that the UK government will invest a total of €70m (£60m) in further funding for research into the material.
Tony Ling, Director at Jestico + Whiles, said: “Jestico + Whiles is delighted to being working on this world-leading research centre and support the UK’s eminence in the development of this revolutionary material. The race to close the gap between research and industry, and capitalise on the value of graphene is highly competitive internationally.”