The Graphene Application Laboratory
Located at the new CFPR site on UWE’s Frenchay Campus, the Graphene Application Lab is home to some of the world’s leading graphene scientists led by Associate Professor, Dr Nazmul Karim.
The laboratory is a hub of research and collaboration, equipped with high quality scientific equipment and facilities that allow researchers to explore the exciting potential and capabilities of the world’s strongest material.
First isolated from graphite in 2004, graphene is a two-dimensional material with a range of impressive properties including high thermal and electrical conductivity, high elasticity, strength and transparency. It is the strongest material known to man – 200 times stronger than steel – while being one million times thinner than a human hair.
With so many useful properties, the potential applications of graphene are vast and could be used in a wide variety of industries including electronics, composites, filtrations, recycling and medicine. Having only been recently discovered, scientists across the world are investigating the many ways that graphene could be utilised to the benefit of people and planet.
Areas of focus
The research at the CFPR graphene lab is focused on three key areas:
1). Wearable electronics
Imagine a running t-shirt that could regulate your body temperature and monitor your heart rate but which could be washed, worn and produced like any other piece of clothing. Or a comfortable onesie which premature babies could wear to monitor their vital signs and keep them warm in hospital. These are just some of the possibilities of wearable electronics, otherwise known as e-textiles, that researchers at CFPR are exploring.
The cost-effective, lightweight and flexible properties of graphene make it an excellent addition to clothing and means it can be coated or printed onto existing materials. Every atom in graphene is exposed to its environment allowing it to sense changes in its surroundings, making it an ideal material for sensors on the body.
2). Sustainable clothing
From polyester to nylon, much of the world’s clothing contains plastic. While cheap to produce, it comes at a huge cost to the planet and even our own health. When washed, the clothing releases harmful plastic microfibres into the water system. When thrown away, these materials can take up to ~400 years to decompose, releasing microplastics into the soil and local environment. An increasing number of companies are switching to recycled plastic materials, but these materials are still harmful to the environment and are often of poor quality.
UWE Bristol researchers are investigating how graphene could be used to improve the quality and sustainability of plastic-based recycled clothing, making it stronger, lighter and more reusable.
3). Smart and sustainable composites
CFPR researchers are exploring how graphene could be used to create composite materials that are more sustainable and which add functionality. The potential applications of these composites are vast in number and could benefit a wide range of sectors such as transport and the environment. From a graphene composite bike frame that is lighter, stronger and more sustainable to produce than other bikes currently on the market, to a solar panelled car capable of generating its own power, the possibilities are endless.