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Has the EU’s Graphene Flagship met its 10-year goals?

In the spring of 2010, physicist Jari Kinaret received an email from the European Commission. The EU executive was looking for pitches from scientists for ambitious new mega projects. Known as flagships, the initiatives would focus on innovations that could transform Europe’s scientific and industrial landscape.

Kinaret, a professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, examined the original proposals.

“I was not very impressed,” the 60-year-old tells TNW. “I thought they could find better ideas.”

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Coincidentally, Kinaret had an idea of ​​his own: to grow graphene. He decided to put the subject up for consideration.

That proposal laid the foundation for the Graphene flagship: the largest European research program ever. Launched in 2013 with a budget of €1 billion, the project aimed to make the “wonder material” mainstream within 10 years.

Ahead of that deadline, TNW spoke to Kinaret about the project’s progress over the past decade – and his hopes for the next decade.

Graphene arrives in Europe

Scientists have been chasing the single layer of carbon atoms that make up graphene since 1859, but its existence wasn’t confirmed until 2004. The big breakthrough was caused by a remarkably simple product: adhesive tape.

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, two physicists at the University of Manchester, regularly held “Friday night experiments,” exploring outlandish ideas. In one such session, adhesive tape was used to extract small flakes from a lump of graphite. After repeatedly separating the thinnest fragments, they created flakes only one atom thick.

The researchers had isolated graphene – the first two-dimensional material ever discovered.

The researchers donated their graphite, tape and graphene transistor to the Nobel Museum