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UK and China 'natural partners' in graphene research

By Angus McNeice in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-11-21 00:45

Scientists in the United Kingdom and China are working to create a future built on graphene, the "super material" that may soon be used for a range of things, including charging smartphones in seconds and filtering salt out of seawater.

At the first UK-China graphene conference last week in the Southwest China city of Chongqing, British scientists demonstrated the latest breakthroughs in the commercialization of the highly conductive, incredibly strong two-dimensional material made of carbon.

Researchers from the Manchester-based National Graphene Institute demonstrated the filtration capabilities of ultrathin, graphene-oxide membranes. The technology could be used to separate particles from solvents in the manufacture of medications, and to provide clean drinking water from seawater.

Graphene could play an important role in the development of wearable electronics, and scientists at the conference demonstrated the use of graphene in flexible, battery-like devices printed directly onto textiles.

Researchers around the world are developing technologies that use graphene, including smartphone batteries that charge in under a minute, and ultrathin antennas that transfer a terabyte of data in second.

China's interest in British research into the commercial application of the material was highlighted by President Xi Jinping's visit to the National Graphene Institute during his 2015 state visit to the UK.

At the conference, UK trade minister Rona Fairhead and Tian Shihong, director-general of the standardization administration of China, agreed to work together to establish an international organization for standardization in graphene research.

Creating common standards for scientific research increases efficiency and cooperation in international study, said Rebecca Jiang, science and innovation officer at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

"Collaborating on graphene standards will therefore reduce technical barriers to trade and joint research and development in an area that is a strength for both countries, with huge market potential," Jiang said.

She noted that China and the UK are "natural partners" when it comes to graphene research and commercialization.

The UK has become a world leader in the study of graphene, investing 61 million pounds ($80.8 million) in the National Graphene Center and a further 60 million pounds in the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre, which is set to open next year.

The graphene market in China is forecast to be worth $200 million during the next three years, making it the largest in the Asia-Pacific region. As of September, 2,950 Chinese companies said they were exploring the use of graphene in their businesses, according to government statistics.

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