EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in the Science and Applications of Graphene and Related Nanomaterials (GrapheneNOWNANO)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester


The proposed EPSRC CDT in the Science and Applications of Graphene and Related Nanomaterials will respond to the UK need to train specialists with the skills to manipulate new strictly two-dimensional (2D) materials, in particular graphene, and work effectively across the necessary interdisciplinary boundaries. Graphene has been dubbed a miracle material due to the unique combination of superior electronic, mechanical, optical, chemical and biocompatible properties suitable for a large number of realistic applications. The potential of other 2D materials (e.g. boron nitride, transition metal and gallium dichalcogenides) has become clear more recently and already led to developing 'materials on demand'.
The proposed CDT will build on the world-leading research in graphene and other 2D nanomaterials at the Universities of Manchester (UoM) and Lancaster (LU). In the last few years this research has undergone huge expansion from fundamental physics into chemistry, materials science, characterization, engineering, and life sciences. The importance of developing graphene-based technology has been recognized by recent large-scale investments from UK and European governments, including the establishment of the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at UoM and the award of 'Graphene Flagship' funding by the European Commission within the framework of the Future and Emerging Technologies (Euro1 billion over the next 10 years), aiming to support UK and European industries.Tailored training of young researchers in these areas has now become urgent as numerous companies and spin-offs specializing in electronics, energy storage, composites, sensors, displays, packaging and separation techniques have joined the race and are investing heavily in development of graphene-based technologies.

Given these developments, it is of national importance that we establish a CDT that will train the next generation of scientists and engineers who will able to realise the huge potential of graphene and related 2D materials, driving innovation in the UK, Europe and beyond. The CDT will work with industrial partners to translate the results of academic research into real-world applications in the framework of the NGI and support the highly successful research base at UoM and LU.
The new CDT will build directly on the structures and training framework developed for the highly successful North-West Nanoscience DTC (NOWNANO). The central achievement of NOWNANO has been creating a wide ranging interdisciplinary PhD programme, educating a new type of specialist capable of thinking and working across traditional discipline boundaries. The close involvement of the medical/life sciences with the physical sciences was another prominent and successful feature of NOWNANO and one we will continue in the new CDT. In addition to interdisciplinarity, an important feature of the new CDT will be the engagement with a broad network of users in industry and society, nationally and internationally.

The students will start their 4-year PhD with a rigorous, bespoke 6-month programme of taught and assessed courses covering a broad range of nanoscience and nanotechnology, extending beyond graphene to other nanomaterials and their applications. This will be followed by challenging, interdisciplinary research projects and a programme of CDT-wide events (annual conferences, regular seminars, training in transferable skills, commercialization training, outreach activities). International experience will be provided by visiting academics and secondments to overseas partners. Training in knowledge transfer will be a prominent feature of the proposed programme, including a bespoke course 'Innovation and Commercialisation of Research' to which our many industrial partners will contribute, and industrial experience in the form of 3 to 6 months secondments that each CDT student will undertake in the course of their PhD.

Planned Impact

The proposed CDT is expected to have a high impact on the supply of the next generation of academic and industrial leaders, knowledge transfer and academic research.

The most important impact is providing highly educated, skilled specialists capable of carrying on research which crosses traditional boundaries between disciplines. The Science and Applications of Graphene and Related Nanomaterials is now widely acknowledged as an area of great potential for economic growth in the UK, Europe and beyond. The need to develop graphene-based technology has been recognized by recent large-scale investments from UK and European governments, including £61M for the creation of National Graphene Institute (NGI) at Manchester and £21M EPSRC investment in graphene engineering across the UK. Numerous companies (IBM, Intel, Samsung, LG, BASF, Lockeed Martin, Oxford Instruments, VARTA, FIAT, etc.) specialising in electronics, energy storage, sensors, displays, packaging and separation techniques have joined the race and are investing heavily in development of graphene-based technologies. The latest development is the award of the EC-FET Graphene Flagship funding by the European Commission. The success of this strategic EU initiative (Euro1 billion over the next 10 years), aiming to support the UK and European industries, will depend on the availability of specialists with intimate knowledge of various aspects of graphene-based systems, first-hand experience in research on graphene and 2D materials, and related nanotechnologies. GrapheneNOWNANO will train such specialists.

The proposed CDT brings together the experience and skills of UoM and LU staff from across engineering and physical sciences (physics, chemistry, materials, chemical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering and computer science) and medical and life sciences and will benefit postgraduate researchers in all these disciplines. It will further enhance and support the successful research base at UoM and LU and facilitate further developments in the science and applications of 2D materials. We will disseminate new knowledge and best practice in training via annual Summer Conferences and at least one international Summer School encompassing research in graphene and related nanomaterials, which will be open to young researchers in the UK and Europe.

GrapheneNOWNANO will engage directly with UK, European and international companies from a broad line-up of industries interested in developing graphene applications: 15 companies have already made firm commitments to work with the new CDT, including funding students, working on joint projects, hosting secondments and training within industrial environment, participating in commercialization training. Through these interactions, the proposed CDT will play an important part in maximizing the impact of 2D materials research in the North West of England and the wider world, accelerating innovation and transforming the blue-sky studies of these new materials into innovation.

The CDT will work on raising the awareness of the general public about the academic and industrial developments and the importance of research for the society and the economy. We will do this through participating in a variety of dissemination and outreach events (eg Big Bang fair, RS Summer Exhibition, Science Festivals, Science and Engineering weeks, visits to local schools), thus enhancing the grasp of science by the wider public, but in particular encouraging young people to pursue a science/engineering based career.


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