Sedgefield Centre for Process Innovation works on revolutionary material

The Northern Echo: An image of how graphene is made up An image of how graphene is made up

THE North-East will put the UK at the pinnacle of an £800m global science market after bosses confirmed it will play an instrumental role in developing a revolutionary material.

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), in Sedgefield, County Durham, is the new home for £14m work on graphene.

The Graphene Applications Innovation Centre will open later this year on CPI's existing base, providing support for companies working on the wonder carbon material.

The North-East already has a strong reputation for developing graphene, which can conduct electricity a million times better than copper.

Applied Graphene Materials, near Redcar, aims to increase production to eight tonnes in the long-term, with Consett-based chemical firm Thomas Swan and Co previously signing a deal with Dublin's Trinity College to look at industrial scale production.

Nigel Perry, CPI chief executive, said: “Graphene is a very interesting material with great promise.

“If the UK is to create economic benefit from graphene, it will need a concerted effort to by prove processes work at an industrial scale.

“The new centre will work alongside academic organisations, such as the National Graphene Institute, graphene makers and users, to develop and prove commercial applications for a range of major industries.

“The UK has a strong position in the fundamental science of graphene and the new centre will increase the focus on exploring potential applications through the scale up of manufacturing processes for both material and products.”

The move comes after Chancellor George Osborne called on the UK to stand at the forefront of technology and manufacturing in his Budget.

Bosses said CPI was chosen for the new centre due to its existing work on developing new products and progress with graphene technology.

In his Budget speech, Mr Osborne said: “If Britain isn’t leading the world in science and technology and engineering, then we are condemning our country to fall behind.

“Graphene is a great British discovery that we should break the habit of a lifetime with and commercially develop in Britain.”

CPI manages the national development centres for industrial biotechnology, printable electronics and biologics and is part of the Government's high value manufacturing catapult programme, an elite network of technology centres.

WHAT IS GRAPHENE?

  • Tougher than diamond yet ultralight, graphene is arranged in a honeycomb lattice, and is more transparent to light than any other known conductor.
  • A sheet of graphene stretched over a hole could support a ten-tonne truck.
  • Graphene is a one-molecule thick layer of graphite 100 times stronger than steel but six times lighter.
  • It is being developed for use in electronics, solar panels, body armour, non-stick pan coatings and mobile phone touchscreen displays.

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