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June 14, 2011

Graphene – Nokia’s future super-material

GLOBAL – We’ve written about Nokia’s strategy for 2011 many times, but as a reminder it consists of three pillars: Smartphones, the next billion and future disruptions. It’s the future disruptions part that’s on the agenda today, as Nokia and nine partners explore what’s possible with graphene, the new super-material.

So, graphene. Does anybody know what it is? No? Well, we hadn’t really heard of it either. But we’re glad it’s popped up on our radar as it sounds like a life-changing material. Graphene is an allotrope of carbon and its 2D structure measures just one atom thick. While being thin, it’s the strongest material ever tested, having a breaking strength 300 times greater than steel and is also the lightest material ever, best intrinsic conductor and super-flexible, too. It’s predicted to replace silicon as the base for all electronics. What’s not to get excited about here?

Back in 2009, the EU decided that more work needed to be done – particularly in Europe – to help reinforce research in future and emerging technologies and promptly started a series of large scale research initiatives, called Future and Emerging Technology (FET) Flagship projects.

On May 4th this year, the Graphene Flagship program was launched in Budapest with NRC participating, as Nokia believes that graphene is a future-changing material and is taking part in this initiative to help bring this most-promising material to the real-world. Nokia isn’t doing it alone, though. It has the help of nine other partners, which include four Nobel laureates; Dr. Andre Geim and Dr. Konstantin Novoselov with Dr. K. von Klitzing and Dr. A. Fert on the advisory board for the activity.

As if Nobel prize winners wasn’t enough, the other partners include a heap of European leading experts in graphene: the Chalmers University of Technology, the University of Manchester , the University of Lancaster, the University of Cambridge, AMO Gmbh, the Catalan institute of Nanotechnology, the Italian research council and the European Science foundation. Which means there’s a lot of people wanting to see this become a reality.

Why is this important, though? Good question. It means that devices such as the Nokia Morph could soon become a reality. It means that materials could be ultra-thin and could be manipulated at will. Imagine a phone that can be screwed up into your pocket, where the size restrictions of today don’t apply.

We’re not just talking about mobile phones here, we’re talking about the technology in its vastness. Once the technology exists, your TV could – in theory – just be unrolled and pasted to your living room wall, like a roll of wallpaper.

We’re really excited to learn that Nokia is trying to bring this technology to the masses, and not only disrupt the future of mobile phones, but for everybody else too. That’s true innovation.

Are you as excited as we are?