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European roadmap for graphene applications in science and technology

More than 60 European researchers and industry partners have set out their roadmap for the application of graphene in marketed products. Leiden chemist Grégory F. Schneider believes that graphene and other layered materials can in the future be used for DNA sequencing applications.

Graphene applications

Graphene, an extremely thin and flexible material, made up of a single layer of carbon atoms, is one of the world’s strongest materials with very particular electrical and optical properties. Graphene and other two-dimensional (2D) materials are expected to revolutionize the research fields in which they are employed. These materials have numerous potential applications, for example in biomedical devices, energy conversion and electronics.

Roadmap from the laboratory to the market

A large group of international authors are now publishing in Nanoscale a roadmap for graphene applications, 2D materials and hybrid systems. The roadmap covers the research and expected innovation for the coming ten years and beyond, with the objective of guiding the research community and industry towards the development of products based on these remarkable materials.

Graphene as a sensor

One of the authors, Grégory F. Schneider, is a chemist and group leader at the Leiden Institute of Chemistry. His group conducts interdisciplinary research on graphene in the field of bionanotechnologies. He investigates the chemical properties of graphene from the perspective of using this material, for example, as a sensor by exploiting the surface and edge reactivity of graphene. ‘To these ends, graphene has three fantastic properties: it conducts electricity outstandingly well, its edge is only a single carbon atom thin, and the fact that all the atoms are located on the surface makes graphene very sensitive to nearby environmental changes,’ commented Schneider.

Schematic illustration of the roadmap research and marketing activities for graphene and other two dimensional materials

DNA sequencing

One of the applications Schneider dreams of is DNA sequencing. ‘In a proper device configuration, a graphene edge could scan a DNA molecule from head to tail, providing a linear read-out of the genomic sequence in real time.' He anticipates that high-throughput sequencing could take up to twenty years, but he looks forward to a proof-of-concept much sooner. Schneider pioneered this particular research field by demonstrating that graphene can be used for detecting single DNA strands but as yet cannot provide a read-out of the nucleotide sequence in such a strand. ‘There are still many bottlenecks before we reach this final goal,’ Schneider said.

Other applications are closer at hand

It will probably take another ten years before products such as flexible electronics, composites and energy are ready for market. Within this timescale, advanced prototypes of silicon-integrated photonic devices and biomedical devices will be developed. 

From fundamental science to health and environment

More generally, eleven science and technology themes are identified in the roadmap, including in the area of fundamental science, health and environment, flexible electronics, energy conversion and storage and biomedical devices. The roadmap addresses each of these areas in turn, with timelines. Schneider: ‘This roadmap highlights and summarizes the most recent worldwide activities in graphene research and proposes new research directions. I do believe that this roadmap will yield interdisciplinary new research ideas worldwide and will be a trigger for innovation, both in academia and industry.’

Science and technology roadmap for graphene, related two-dimensional crystals, and hybrid systemsNanoscale, 24 February 2015

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