EU gives Nokia a Billion Euro for R&D launching Global Race for Graphene

nokia-sign-elopGraphene is the strongest material ever tested and Nokia now has a major hand in its development having secured – in conjunction with the Graphene Flagship Consortium (GFC) – a grant worth  Euro 1.0 billion (USD 1.35 billion). Nokia is a member of the GFC, which brings together 74 European partners from the private sector and academia to advance what has been touted the strongest material yet known to man and one that could have an impact on technology and society comparable in scope to iron or silicon.

Graphene is an allotrope of carbon having a honeycomb shape. It is thin, flexible and resilient and it is extremely light. Nokia has very clear plans for graphene. With it, the Company will be able to develop fully flexible and lighter phones. Nokia started working with graphene in 2006. Since then, the company has identified a number of areas where this material could be applied to great advantage. For instance graphene transistors could be made in almost microscopic sizes, which would allow Nokia, best known for its mobile phones, to create a whole new generation of consumer electronics featuring much improved portability due to a significant size and weight reductions. While, Nokia has been very pleased by its research to date, the company expects far more significant results in the near future and the grant announced today will no doubt accelerate development. Moreover, given the stakes involved with such a revolutionary material, the impact of Nokia‘s research could benefit all of Europe as it races against similar research being conducted in Asia and North America.

The one billion Euro grant sends a signal to European industry and science that it is high time to start investing in research again and that graphene should be among the highest priorities.Research spending in the West has dropped and the fact that the graphene grant has come now, with Europe continuing to struggle with its debt situation-meaning fewer incentives and liquidity available for investment- suggests that European governments have noted graphene’s strategic importance and the need to catch up to the level of Asian competitors such as  Samsung, which is on the cusp of delivering the technology to consumers.

It is not surprising that Nokia would be leading graphene research at the industrial level. Indeed, one of Nokia’s main competitors, perhaps its biggest, Samsung, recently produced and tested graphene transistors, much thinner and more conductive, overcoming problems related to controlling the current flow ( in other words, the current would be constantly ‘on’ – transistors  act as a “switchable gate” controlling the current flow). The research for these new conductors was performed at Samsung’s answer to the GFC, the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology.  Samsung is just about ready to bring graphene to the market thanks to its plans to introduce flexible transparent screens in cell phones. It has also overcome problems in adopting graphene in circuit integration with its ‘Barristor’ – variable barrier transistor – a device that will make computer CPU’s several times faster and smaller than the best on the market today. Samsung said it could be ready to launch cell phones with graphene-based flexible transparent screens, the Galaxy ‘Skin’, before the end of 2015. The advantage is more than cosmetic dazzle; a flexible, almost organic, phone could be folded and carried in any number of ways without risk of damage.

This technology has huge potential, as its flexibility can make electronic devices adapt to any shape and texture. Laptops and tablets will be almost as easily foldable and thin as a newspaper. We could even have electronic clothing – designer pants with built in mp3 player and CPU, flexible TV’s that fold way and which can be installed in seconds without use of heavy hardware. The result of this battle of technology pitting Nokia vs. Samsung or East vs. West is that graphene technology will advance faster than imagined.

Nokia has quickly understood the advantage of graphene and its role in revolutionizing mobile phone technology and beyond. Nokia has been working with nine technology suppliers to explore the possibilities of graphene through the Nokia Research Center, Eurolab, in Cambridge, UK. In 2008, Nokia presented the ’Morph’, a concept mobile phone featuring a flexible design and showcase for nanotechnology. As the name suggests the ‘Morph’ can change into many shapes and graphene is the tool that will bring the ’morph’ and its derivatives to life. Nokia is also studying using graphene as a coating to make mobile phones and other electronic items waterproof. The so-called ’superhydrophibic’ nano layer of graphene repels water completely; the coating would also make devices impervious to fingerprints. Like Samsung, Nokia is also studying television screens that can be rolled out like a poster thanks to graphene screens. In the race to market graphene derived products, Samsung has the advantage of Asia’s more favorable economics but Nokia’s grant signals that Europe has woken up. Nokia and Samsung rival, Apple, has been rather quiet on the graphene front, but surely they too will have something to say on the matter.

Focus Graphite (TSX.V: FMS; OTCQX: FCSMF) is working on a method to bring graphene to the market through its partner Grafoid Inc in which it has a 40% stake. Grafoid’s sole purpose is to develop a proprietary method of producing graphene more economically. Grafoid is close to a manufacturing approach that avoids oxidation of the material, which reduces its conductivity. Grafoid is quite confident that it has an economically viable graphene production process ready. From Gary Economo, President and CEO Grafoid Inc. “The European Community’s grant to Nokia indicates the global race is on in earnest for graphene’s use in consumer electronics. As an emerging source of high-energy graphene for industrial-scale applications, we see Grafoid, our graphene investment and application development company as being well-positioned to enter that race in the very near future.”