GoINPHARMA™ meets Professor Jari Kinaret, Director of the Graphene Flagship

Professor Jari Kinaret, Director of the Graphene Flagship

Professor Jari Kinaret, Director of the Graphene Flagship

Today GoINPHARMA™ meets Professor Jari Kinaret, Director of the Graphene Flagship

Professor Kinaret is the Director of the Graphene Flagship and leader of the Condensed Matter Theory (CMT) group at the Department of Physics at Chalmers University of Technology. Professor Kinaret, born in Kokkola in Finland, has a background in theoretical physics and electrical engineering and has received his PhD in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992, is at Chalmers since 1995. He has published 68 scientific articles and has 6 patents. Since beginning of 2013 he is director of Graphene Flagship, which is a Future and Emerging Technology Flagship funded by the European Commission.

The core consortium consists of over 150 academic and industrial research groups in 23 countries and has a budget of €1bn.

GoINPHARMA™: Professor Jari Kinaret why don’t we start by describing what is the Graphene Flagship today and what has been its journey so far?

Professor Jari Kinaret: The Graphene Flagship is a very large – 1,000 million euros – research endeavour funded in part by the European Commission and in part by the EU member states. Our goal is to take graphene and related two-dimensional materials from academic laboratories to society as new products, investment opportunities and new jobs. While it will take many years to reach that goal, we are well on our way – for instance, the number of companies involved in the project has more than tripled from the start, and they represent a variety of branches from chemical industries to electronics, aerospace and pharmaceutics, just to name a few.

GoINPHARMA™: Graphene research took off less than 10 years ago and has in record time generated big excitement and high expectations that have culminated in the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010: what makes graphene so interesting and unique?

Professor Jari Kinaret: Graphene was the first atomically thin material that has been extensively studied starting in 2004. It has a number of exciting properties: it is the best conductor of heat we know, it is completely impermeable despite being only one atom thick, it is extremely strong and flexible, it conducts electricity remarkably well etc.. What makes it unique is this combination of superlatives. After 2004, graphene has been followed by other two-dimensional materials such as boron nitride or molybdenum disulfide, which can be combined with graphene to build sandwich-like structures with tailor-made properties that no single material can offer by itself.

GoINPHARMA™: Our readers are very much interested in the application in the healthcare sector: what is the potential of Graphene and what are the most recent discoveries that could lead Graphene to find sustainable applications in this sector? Moreover, how much involved is the big pharma in the Graphene-related projects?

Professor Jari Kinaret: Graphene has been attracting a considerable and increasing level of interest from biological and medical applications. The two-dimensional structure of graphene sheets and their chemically modified forms offer a unique and almost entirely unexplored platform for biomedical use. There are three major efforts worldwide in utilizing graphene-based technologies in the healthcare sector: biosensors, molecular transport systems, implantable devices and scaffolds for tissue engineering applications. All of these efforts are at the early stage of development with a lot of research activity picking up at the preclinical (disease model) level. The Graphene Flagship has initiated this year a distinct and focused programme of work for the development of smart neural implants to offer graphene-based solutions against blindness, neurodegenerative diseases, such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s and brain cancer. This research effort includes the integrated participation of big pharma (GSK) in the area of bioelectronic medicines.

You may wish to check these two articles for further info:
http://www.nature.com/nmat/journal/v15/n5/full/nmat4639.html
http://www.nature.com/articles/natrevmats201684

For more insights on graphene and biological applications please consult Professor Kostas Kostarelos at the University of Manchester. He leads the flagship’s work package on biomedical technologies.

GoINPHARMA™: Looking now at a broader view: what are the most recent discoveries that you believe would accelerate the launch of new products based on graphene? We wanted also to ask you what is the cooperation between academia and industry in these research activities and discoveries?

Professor Jari Kinaret: There are many interesting discoveries, but if I have to pick just a couple, I would like to mention graphene-based photodetectors that are very exciting for ultrafast broadband technologies, graphene-based magnetic field sensors that outperform competing technologies by a factor of 100 or so, and advanced energy storage devices exploiting graphene electrodes. Many of these discoveries have emerged from academia-industry collaborations where we have brought together what is possible (technology push) and what is relevant (market pull). If we manage to get the push and pull to act in the same direction, it is a win-win situation for all parties.

GoINPHARMA™: Now Professor Kinaret, a glimpse into the future: what do you expect from the Graphene Flagship for the years to come and which activities do you think will bring the most promising results?

Professor Jari Kinaret: Well, predicting the future is always challenging. Personally, I think those applications that exploit graphene’s unique features, such as thinness and impermeability, will grow. This encompasses a number of nanofluidic applications, for instance in biomedicine but also in many engineering branches. Another very promising direction is to take advantage of graphene’s electronic properties that place it between traditional metals and insulators, which enable for instance tunable plasmonic sensors and other optoelectronic components. In terms of the industrialization, we need to focus more on the manufacturing aspects, how to bring graphene into existing processes and how to combine it with other materials. Completing the value chains from materials produces to component manufacturers and system integrators is becoming a key issue.

Further Information

For science and industry enquiries:
Jari Kinaret, Director
jari.kinaret@chalmers.se

For business enquiries:
Kari Hjelt, Head of Innovation
kari.hjelt@cit.chalmers.se

For media enquiries:
Corporate communication
Karin Weijdegård, Communications Officer
+ 46 31 772 22 29
karin.weijdegard@chalmers.se

Research and development
Siân Fogden, Science Writer and Communications Officer
+44 1223 748344

About Graphene Flagship
Graphene Flagship is a Future and Emerging Technology Flagship funded by the European Commission and by EU member states and associated countries The core consortium consists of over 150 academic and industrial partners in 23 countries and has a budget of €1bn. Its work is organized in 15 scientific and technological work packages covering topics from fundamental research to biomedical technologies, electronics, composite materials and energy applications. About one third of the consortium partners are industrial, including both SMEs and large multinationals. In addition, the flagship has an increasing number of associated members who participate in many flagship activities but do not receive EC funding. For further information, see www.graphene-flagship.eu .