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UK-UAE deal to roll out ‘miracle material’ graphene

Graphene Innovations Manchester signs deal with Quazar Investment to set up a UAE company to scale up graphene-based technologies Supplied
Graphene Innovations Manchester signs deal with Quazar Investment to set up a UAE company to scale up graphene-based technologies
  • University of Manchester and Quazar Investment form $1bn partnership
  • Graphene-based technologies can reduce global carbon emissions
  • Concrete created without cement or water and using recycled materials

A University of Manchester company has forged a $1 billion partnership in the UAE to spearhead the drive to commercialise graphene, the “miracle material” that’s stronger than diamond, more conductive than copper and more flexible than rubber.

Graphene Innovations Manchester (GIM) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Quazar Investment Company to set up the partnership in the UAE. The venture aims to scale up graphene-based technologies “to make a substantial impact on global CO2 emissions”.     

GIM CEO Vivek Koncherry said the UK-UAE partnership was one of the most ambitious projects so far for the commercialisation of graphene and came with an investment vision worth a total of $1 billion.

Bradley Jones, executive director of the UAE-UK Business Council, described the deal as “both important and timely”.

The move comes as cross-border deals between the UK and the Middle East stand close to record levels.

Jones told AGBI: “One of the aims of this groundbreaking deal is to foster collaboration in using graphene technology to reduce global CO2 emissions by developing graphene-enhanced concrete that can be created without cement or water and made using recycled materials. 

“The UAE-UK Business Council is currently running a campaign on the decarbonisation of the construction sector. We will be hosting a summit alongside Cop28 in December and will be looking at the role graphene can play in reducing the carbon impact of cement.”

Graphene is stronger than diamond, more conductive than copper and more flexible than rubber

The UAE is also on the hunt to import sustainability technology and infrastructure in light of its pledge to reach net zero by 2050. 

The UK-UAE venture will develop and produce premium, environmentally friendly products using advanced 2D materials, including graphene-enhanced concrete.

Graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms arranged like honeycomb, was first isolated at the University of Manchester in 2004. Scientists believe it could become as common as plastic.

The university has set up the National Graphene Institute and the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, enabling researchers to work alongside industrial partners on new applications.

Waleed Al Ali, CEO of Quazar, said: “The new graphene company will take a global lead in making environmentally friendly concrete and other products.”

James Baker, CEO of Graphene@Manchester – which includes the institute and innovation centre – called the agreement with Quazar a “seminal moment” for the commercialisation of graphene.

“Manchester is known as the ‘home of graphene’ but increasingly, it’s also being recognised as the home to its commercialisation potential,” he said.

“We’re able to form international partnerships based on this reputation and can place our city-region and the UK into graphene’s global economy.”

The University of Manchester and the UAE’s Khalifa University have also formed a graphene partnership that has been praised by UK energy secretary Grant Shapps.

The two universities are looking at ways to apply graphene and related advanced materials to technologies that will help make the world more sustainable, including water desalination, construction materials and energy storage.

George Traub, managing partner of Lumina Capital Advisers, a corporate finance adviser with clients in Dubai, London and Riyadh, said Middle East companies continue to be attracted by the UK for investment deals.

He added that, given the concerns on global inflation, banking sector jitters and lower growth worldwide, it’s encouraging a sentiment of “making hay while the sun shines”.

“Regional investors are looking at a limited window of opportunity to take advantage of circumstances that don’t come around that often,” he said.

The potential of graphene

Person, Architecture, BuildingSupplied
The National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester

Combining graphene with paint creates a coating that could signal the end of rust on cars and ships, according to the University of Manchester.

Graphene could also help to create a smartphone that you could wear on your wrist or a tablet you could roll up like a newspaper. 

The material could dramatically increase the lifespan of a traditional lithium ion battery. Batteries could be so flexible and light that they could be stitched into clothing.

Graphene’s properties of thinness and conductivity have led to global research into its applications as a semiconductor which has already shown that graphene chips are much faster than those made from silicon.

Graphene oxide can be used to create ‘smart’ food packaging products. This could dramatically cut down on unnecessary food wastage.

Research is currently looking at how graphene membranes can be used to improve water filtration, gas separation and desalination projects.

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