Graphene flagship: Four new partners to realize carbon nanomembranes according to customer specifications.

It consists of pure carbon and is a truly magic material: the graphene. It is extremely thin, only one atomic layer thick, extremely light, very flexible and transparent. Materials composed of graphene can be harder than diamond and more tensile strength resistant than steel. It has extremely high thermal conductivity and electrical mobility, which did not only make the semiconductor and computer industry sit up and take notice. Also the European Union recognizes the importance of this revolutionary material and funds research institutions and companies in this field in the framework of the so-called EU graphene flagship. Also on board are the University of Ulm, the University of Bielefeld, BASF and CNM Technologies. Their project is the development of innovative filter technology with graphene.

Ute Kaiser, head of the Group of Electron Microscopy for Materials Science at the University of Ulm, is already researching on graphene using transmission electron microscopy since 2007. "Graphene is one of the most promising new materials at all. It is not without reason that something like a gold rush prevails in graphene research, we electron microscopists greatly acknowledge the defined thinnes of the material", said Kaiser. The newly developed joint project with the University of Bielefeld, the chemical company BASF and the nano membrane manufacturer CNM Technologies is supported by the European Commission in the frame of the "initiative future and emerging technologies". The one billion Euro project EU Graphene Flagship, laid out on ten years, is one of the biggest European research initiatives ever and shall ensure European leadership in graphene research. The goal: "To get this 'magic material' from the scientific laboratories to everyday use as quickly as possible", the European Commission informed in a press release.

Due to its very special chemical and physical properties, a wide variety of highly innovative applications is possible. Whether in information technology, medical technology, automotive or battery research - the expectations are enormous. In total, more than 140 organizations from 23 countries are involved in this European consortium including mostly universities, research institutions and economic enterprises. 66 new partners have now been added in the new competitive bidding round. For this call for bids, more than 200 proposals by a total of 738 organizations from 37 countries were submitted. "In our project, we develop a unique method for industrial production of graphene nano-membranes (Fig. 1). On the graphene flagship we are concerned with a very special application: the so-called nanofiltration", informed project coordinator Andrey Turchanin of the University of Bielefeld.

The joint project of the two universities and enterprises focuses on the specific membrane properties of this thinnest carbon layer. Graphene is an excellent filter for the desalination of water, but also for other liquids or gases and even for biomolecules. The graphene nanomembranes are formed from surface-bound, single-layered organic molecular layers by pyrolysis - i. e. thermo-chemical cleavage. "The approach is to precisely tailor the pore sizes, material structure and surface properties of the membrane to a variety of applications", Andrey Turchanin explains the research mission of the University of Bielefeld. The groups of the universities Bielefeld and Ulm have already been working successfully on production and characterization of carbon nanomembranes in the past [1]. The task of CNM Technologies GmbH is described by Albert Schnieders, "As a company that specializes in the development and production of carbon-based nano-membranes, we then take care of the transfer of basic research results to industrial production. Our goal is the production of large-area nano-membranes on an industrial scale". "BASF will then investigate the graphene nano-membranes in diverse functional tests on their practical suitability for various applications", Kitty Cha, graphene researcher at BASF SE adds.

"Our job in Ulm will be, however, to characterize the developed material with electron microscopy, i. e. unravel pore size and image and quantify the structures on the atomic scale in general", Ute Kaiser explains. We hope that already in the frame of this current project, our special low-voltage electron microscope SALVE will deliver results, which allows recording of such materials at atomic resolution. The EU's graphene flagship has a great team of leading European researchers and innovative companies. We are very excited about this joint research adventure.", the electron-expert Ute Kaiser looks forward to fascinating new insights into the nano-world of carbon.

  1. Angelova, P., Vieker, H., Weber, N. E., Matei, D., Reimer, O., Meier, I., Kurasch, S., Biskupek, J., Lorbach, D., Wunderlich, K., Chen, L., Terfort, A., Klapper, M., Müllen, K., Kaiser, U. A., Gölzhäuser, A., & Turchanin, A. (2013). A universal scheme to convert aromatic molecular monolayers into functional carbon nanomembranes. ACS nano, 7(8), 6489-6497. doi: 10.1021/nn402652f