In 2010, two physicists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, working at the University of Manchester, received the Nobel Prize for Physics for isolating and characterizing graphene which constitutes of a 2D monolayer of graphitic carbon. Graphene is in effect a sheet of carbon atoms of macroscopic dimensions but of atomic thickness. It has already been found to possess remarkable physical properties that can revolutionise our way of thinking in many areas and can lead to novel applications in the long term. The electrical charge carriers in graphene move, unimpeded, at speeds 10–100 times faster than in today’s silicon chips – and at normal temperatures. Furthermore, graphene is stable in air and transparent. Its mechanical performance is a unique combination of high strength and stiffness but not at the expense of ductility, as is the norm for conventional materials. Since it consists of just carbon atom the source materials can be cheap and plentiful.
Already there is a major mobilization of researchers in academia and industry in an attempt to understand the basic behaviour of graphene but also to start designing new applications. Major industrialized countries such as China, US, Britain and Korea have already invested millions of their currencies to support research initiatives in graphene.
In Europe the European Commision launched in 2009, the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagship competition as a challenge to apply information and communication technologies to social problems. GrapheneFLAGSHIP was selected from a shortlist of six projects as being the most likely to achieve groundbreaking technological advances. It is expected that this project will lead to development of new materials that will revolutionise diverse industries. The project expects to receive €1 billion over ten years, half to be provided by the European Commission and half by participants. It is now enters the so-called ‘ramp-up’ phase, each receiving €54 million over 30 months. Subsequent phases will be supported under its successor programme, Horizon 2020.
In Greece three institutes of FORTH (ICE-HT, IESL and ICAM) have joint research forces and established the FORTH Graphene Centre which is the main pillar for graphene research in Greece and actively participates in the Graphene FLAGSHIP.