Tag Archives: Kostya Novoselov

Graphene and your sex life

This is a first, as far as I know, for graphene, which is usually discussed in the context of electronics. A research team at the University of Manchester (where it was first isolated by Andre Gerim and Kostya Novoselov in 2004) has won a research grant to develop condoms made of graphere, from the Nov. 22, 2013 news item on Azonano,

Wonder material graphene faces its stiffest challenge yet – providing thinner, stronger, safer and more desirable condoms.

Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan and his team from The University of Manchester have received a Grand Challenges Explorations grant of $100,000 (£62,123) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop new composite nano-materials for next-generation condoms, containing graphene.

Dr Vijayaraghavan took on a challenge that had been presented to inventors around the world– to develop new technology that would make the condom more desirable for use, which could lead to an increase in condom use.

Here’s how the challenge was presented in March 2013 (from the Develop the Next Generation of Condom challenge webpage on the Grand Challenges (the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) website,

Male condoms are cheap, easy to manufacture, easy to distribute, and available globally, including in resource poor settings, through numerous well developed distribution channels.  The current rate of global production is 15 billion units/year with an estimated 750 million users and a steadily growing market. …

The one major drawback to more universal use of male condoms is the lack of perceived incentive for consistent use. The primary drawback from the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom, creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable, particularly given that the decisions about use must be made just prior to intercourse. …

Likewise, female condoms can be an effective method for prevention of unplanned pregnancy or HIV infection, but suffer from some of the same liabilities as male condoms, require proper insertion training and are substantially more expensive than their male counterparts. …

The Challenge: 

Condoms have been in use for about 400 years yet they have undergone very little technological improvement in the past 50 years. The primary improvement has been the use of latex as the primary material and quality control measures which allow for quality testing of each individual condom. Material science and our understanding of neurobiology has undergone revolutionary transformation in the last decade yet that knowledge has not been applied to improve the product attributes of one of the most ubiquitous and potentially underutilized products on earth. New concept designs with new materials can be prototyped and tested quickly.  Large-scale human clinical trials are not required. Manufacturing capacity, marketing, and distribution channels are already in place.

We are looking for a Next Generation Condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use. Additional concepts that might increase uptake include attributes that increase ease-of-use for male and female condoms, for example better packaging or designs that are easier to properly apply. In addition, attributes that address and overcome cultural barriers are also desired.  Proposals must (i) have a testable hypothesis, (ii) include an associated plan for how the idea would be tested or validated, and (iii) yield interpretable and unambiguous data in Phase I, in order to be considered for Phase II funding.

A few examples of work that would be considered for funding:

  • Application of safe new materials that may preserve or enhance sensation;
  • Development and testing of new condom shapes/designs that may provide an improved user experience;
  • Application of knowledge from other fields (e.g. neurobiology, vascular biology) to new strategies for improving condom desirability.

The project’s team leader, Dr Vijayaraghavan had a few things to say about the possibilities for this composite material (graphene and latex) they are hoping to develop (from the Nov. 21, 2013 University of Manchester news release, which originated the news item on Azonano),

Dr Vijayaraghavan said: “This composite material will be tailored to enhance the natural sensation during intercourse while using a condom, which should encourage and promote condom use.

“This will be achieved by combining the strength of graphene with the elasticity of latex, to produce a new material which can be thinner, stronger, more stretchy, safer and, perhaps most importantly, more pleasurable.”

He also comments on the impact of this project: “Since its isolation in 2004, people have wondered when graphene will be used in our daily life. Currently, people imagine using graphene in mobile-phone screens, food packaging, chemical sensors, etc.

“If this project is successful, we might have a use for graphene which will literally touch our every-day life in the most intimate way.”

I wonder who will be testing these condoms when the time comes.

For anyone who wants to know more about the graphene story, there are these postings (excerpted from my Jan. 3, 2012 posting about their then newly acquired knighthoods): regarding Geim and Novoselov’s work and their Nobel prizes, “my Oct. 7, 2010 posting, which also features a video of a levitating frog (one of Geim’s favourite science stunts) and my Nov. 26, 2010 posting features a video demonstrating how you can make your own graphene sheets.”

One final note, I posted about the Canadian Grand Challenges funding (not be contused with the US-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation programme) in this Nov. 21, 2013 posting.

The race to commercialize graphene as per the University of Manchester (UK)

The University of Manchester (UK) has a particular interest in graphene as the material was isolated by future Nobel Prize winners, Andre Gheim and Kostya (Konstantin) Novoselov in the university’s laboratories. There’s a Feb. 18, 2013 news item on Nanowerk highlighting the university’s past and future role in the development of graphene on the heels of the recent research bonanza,

The European Commission has announced that it is providing 1bn euros over 10 years for research and development into graphene – the ‘wonder material’ isolated at The University of Manchester by Nobel Prize winners Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov.

The University is very active in technology transfer and has an excellent track-record of spinning out technology, but some think that the University has taken a different view when it comes to patenting and commercialising graphene. Others have expressed a broader concern about British Industry lagging behind in the graphene ‘race’, based upon international ‘league tables’ of numbers of graphene patents.

A recent interview with Clive Rowland (CEO of the University’s Innovation Group) addresses the assumptions about the University’s approach and reflects more generally about graphene patenting and about industry up-take of graphene. The interview is summarised below.

Question: Has the University set up any commercial graphene activities?

Answer: The University owns a company, called 2-DTech Limited, which makes and supplies two-dimensional materials and has an interest in another, Graphene Industries Limited, which sells graphene made by a different technique to 2-DTech.

Question: Is the University falling behind in graphene?

Answer: The University is the world’s leading university for graphene research and publications. It led the charge for UK investment into the field and has been awarded The National Graphene Institute, which will be a £61m state-of-the art centre. This Institute will act as a focus for all sorts of commercial graphene activity in Manchester, from industrial research and development laboratories locating “alongside” the Institute, developing new processes and products, to start-up companies. The University championed the major flagship research funding programmes that have been initiated in the UK and Europe and has been awarded a number of prestigious grants. Graphene is still a science-driven research field and not yet a commercialised technology.

The rest of the summary can be found either at Nanowerk or in this University of Manchester Feb. 18, 2013 news release.

The University of Manchester Innovation Group (aka UMI3) mentioned in connection with Clive Rowland hosts the complete interview (12 pp), which, read from the beginning, provides an enhanced perspective on the university’s graphene commercialization goals,

Graphene – The University of Manchester and Intellectual Property. Dan Cochlin talks to Clive Rowland – The University’s InnovationGroup CEO –‐ about the launch of a new grapheme company at the University, 2–‐DTech Ltd, And grapheme patents and commercialisation.

What is grapheme and why is there so much interest in it?

Graphene is a revolutionary nano material which was first isolated at The University of Manchester By Professors Andre Geim And Konstantin Novoselov. They received the Nobel Prize in 2010 For their ingenious work on graphene. People are excited about it because it has the potential to transform a vast range of products due to its very superior capabilities compared to existing materials.

So what’s the new company about?

It makes and sells CVD graphene, grapheme platelets, grapheme oxide and other advanced materials with amazing properties, which are being called 2–‐D – two dimensional – due to  their single atomic layer thickness. In other words, they’re so thin it’s as if they only have length and breadth dimensions. It will soon have an e–‐commerce site too, where customers can shop on–‐line. The Company will create and develop intellectual property, especially by engaging in interesting assignments such as collaborating with firms on design projects. It will also provide consulting services ,in the field, either directly or by sub–‐contracting to our relevant academic colleagues here at the University. We’re already an international team – with Antiguan, British and Italian people actively involved in the business and a fast developing business agency network in the Far East and the USA.

What’s CVD?

It’s one of the techniques for making grapheme that 2-DTech uses –‐ chemical vapour deposition –‐ which allows us to grow grapheme on foils and films in quite large area sizes for various potential uses, particularly information technology and communications because of graphene’s high quality and unique electronic transport, flexibility and other astounding attributes.

Well why have you only just set this up when others have been doing so for a while now?

The University’s researchers in physics and materials science have been able to make enough grapheme for their own needs until lately, but not any longer. Besides, there has been an expansion of interest across the University in the potential of the material, including from areas such as health and bio–‐sciences. Hence we want to make sure that the University has a regular supply for those colleagues who cannot continue to make it in sufficient quantities or who aren’t familiar with the material.

In addition many of the companies in contact with the University’s Researchers are in a similarly constrained position. So we feel the need to have a University Facility to handle this which is free of the normal academic duties and interests. At the same time we see an international business opportunity.

There’s a strong market demand for high quality grapheme of a consistent nature and a growing interest in other 2–‐D crystals. A number of researchers, especially our CTO Dr Branson Belle, who had been researching 2–‐D Materials and making grapheme for a long time became interested in the business side. …

Thank you Clive Rowland and the University of Manchester for insight into the graphene commercialization efforts on the part of at least one university.  Meanwhile, the comment about producing enough graphene for research reminds me of the queries I get from entrepreneurs about getting access to nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) or cellulose nanocrystals (CNC). To my knowledge, no one outside the research community has gotten access to the materials. I wonder if despite the fact there are two manufacturing facilities whether this may be due to an inability to produce enough CNC or NCC.

National Graphene Institute at the UK’s University of Manchester

It will house the UK’s graphene research efforts according to the Jan. 14, 2013 news item Nanowerk,

This is the first glimpse of the new £61m research institute into wonder material graphene, which is to be built at The University of Manchester.

The stunning, glass-fronted National Graphene Institute (NGI) will be the UK’s home of research into the world’s thinnest, strongest and most conductive material, providing the opportunity for researchers and industry to work together on a huge variety of potential applications.

The University of Manchester Jan. 14, 2013 news release, which originated the news item, spells out some of the hopes and dreams along with descriptions of the building plans,

It is hoped the centre will initially create around 100 jobs, with the long-term expectation of many thousands more in the North West and more widely in the UK.

The 7,600 square metre building will house state-of-the-art facilities, including two ‘cleanrooms’ – one which will take up the whole of the lower ground floor – where scientists can carry out experiments and research without contamination.

The Institute will also feature a 1,500 square metre research lab for University of Manchester graphene scientists to collaborate with their colleagues from industry and other UK universities.

Funding for the NGI will come from £38m from the Government, as part of £50m allocated for graphene research, and the University has applied for £23m from the European Research and Development Fund (ERDF). The NGI will operate as a ‘hub and spoke’ model, working with other UK institutions involved in graphene research.

Some of the world’s leading companies are also expected to sign up to work at the NGI, where they will be offered the chance to work on cutting edge projects, across various sectors, with Nobel Laureates and other leading members of the graphene team.

Graphene, isolated for the first time at The University of Manchester by Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov in 2004, has the potential to revolutionise a huge number of diverse applications; from smartphones and ultrafast broadband to drug delivery and computer chips.


Professor Colin Bailey, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, added: “The National Graphene Institute will be the world’s leading centre of graphene research, combining the expertise of University of Manchester academics with their counterparts at other UK universities and with leading global commercial organisations.

“The potential for its impact on the city and the North West is huge, and will be one of the most exciting centres of cutting edge research in the UK.”

Work is set to start on the five-story NGI, which will have its entrance on Booth Street East, in March, and is expected to be completed in early 2015.

UK National Graphene Institute (NGI) Illustration courtesy of the University of Manchester, UK

UK National Graphene Institute (NGI) Illustration courtesy of the University of Manchester, UK

The University of Manchester is one of the institutions that forms the Graphene Flagship consortium which is currently competing for one of two European Union prizes of 1 Billion Euros for research to be awarded later this year.

Follow the ‘graphene brick’ road

Today (Oct. 11, 2012), I’m highlighting a second article in Nature. This time it’s a “A roadmap for graphene ” (behind a paywall) in the Oct. 11, 2012 online issue of Nature written by Nobel Prize-winner Professor Kostya Novoselov of the University of Manchester; V. I. Fal′ko Department of Physics, Lancaster University;  L. Colombo, Texas Instruments Incorporated; P. R. Gellert, AstraZeneca; M. G. Schwab, BASF SE; and K. Kim, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology.

If you can get behind the paywall, the article offers excellent insight into the state of graphene research and the state of graphene applications.  The authors cover:

Challenges in Production

Chemical vapour deposition

Synthesis on SiC

Other growth methods

Graphene electronics

Flexible electronics

High-frequency transistors

Logic transistor

Photonics

Photodetectors

Optical modulator

Mode-locked laser/THz generator

Optical polarization controller

Composite materials, paints, and coating

Energy generation and storage

Graphene for sensors and metrology

Bioapplications

You can get more details about the article from the Oct. 11, 2012 news release from the University of Manchester,

The authors estimate that the first graphene touchscreen devices could be on the market within three to five years, but will only realise its full potential in flexible electronics applications.

Rollable e-paper is another application which should be available as a prototype by 2015 – graphene’s flexibility proving ideal for fold-up electronic sheets which could revolutionise electronics.

Timescales for applications vary greatly upon the quality of graphene required, the report claims. For example, the researchers estimate devices including photo-detectors, high-speed wireless communications and THz generators (for use in medical imaging and security devices) would not be available until at least 2020, while anticancer drugs and graphene as a replacement for silicon is unlikely to become a reality until around 2030.

I notice the lead authors are from the University of Manchester and Lancaster University. These UK educational institutions are part of the FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) GRAPHENE-CA flagship project, which is in competition for one of two prizes of 1B Euros for research. As I’ve noted previously in my Feb. 21, 2012 posting and many others, the UK is leading a tremendous public relations/marketing campaign on behalf of this project and the UK’s own interests. Good luck to them as I believe the announcement of which are the two winning projects from a field of six should be made in the next few months.

The current international infatuation with roadmaps sometimes reminds me of The Wizard of Oz and the Yellow Brick Road,

I always appreciate the optimism shown by the lead character, Dorothy, as she takes off for parts unknown.