Sunderland University developing new ‘wonder material’ to make cars safer and more efficient



Have your say

SUNDERLAND University boffins are developing technologies they say could revolutionise the worldwide auto industry.

The university is spearheading a research project to develop lighter, stronger, more energy-efficient, and safe vehicles using ‘wonder material’ graphene.

Professor Ahmed Elmarakbi

Professor Ahmed Elmarakbi

Graphene, made from a single layer of carbon atoms, is stronger than diamond, lightweight and flexible.

The University of Sunderland, working with a consortium of five research partners from Italy Spain and Germany, is one of 21 new proposals selected for funding as part of the Graphene Flagship, which aims find everyday uses for graphene technologies.

Ahmed Elmarakbi is a Professor of Automotive Engineering at Sunderland’s Department of Computing, Engineering and Technology:

“Graphene has tremendous applications for the automotive industry and using it to enhance the composite materials in cars has so much potential,” he said.

“The global automotive industry is currently facing great challenges, such as CO2 emissions and safety issues. The development and manufacture of environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient, and safe vehicles is a great solution to these challenges.

“The development of novel graphene-based materials and their potential applications in the automotive industry are the main focus of the project.

“There will be challenges with this project. The issue is not only producing graphene-based products, the issue is applying them on a large scale in cars.

“A key part of our project is building strong collaborations with world-class researchers, who will be able to develop, understand and predict the behaviour of the new composites.”

The project will look at ways of using graphene to improve safety while reducing vehicle weight. Partners include: Centro Ricerche FIAT, Nanesa S.r.l. and Delta-Tech S.p.A. in Italy, Fraunhofer ICT in Germany and Spain’s Interquimica.

Professor Andrea Ferrari, Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre and chairman of the Executive Board of the Graphene Flagship, said: “This adds strength to our unprecedented effort to take graphene and related materials from the lab to the factory floor, so that the world-leading position of Europe in graphene science can be translated into technology, creating a new industry with benefits for Europe in terms of job creation and competitiveness.”