THE better production of a substance which could be worth millions has helped Durham University clinch a top award.
The university has won the Times Higher Education award for Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology for developing a cleaner way to produce graphene, a substance of nanotechnology.
Graphene, which is light but tough, could be used in the aerospace industry, in solar cells, and even to replace batteries in next-generation vehicles and consumer electronics, but was proving difficult to produce.
Karl Coleman, Durham University’s Professor of Chemistry and Nanomaterials, found the existing production methods to be costly, time-consuming and environmentally unfriendly, so he opted instead to build graphene from the bottom up.
Durham University Business and Innovation Services, DBIS, recognised the potential and spin-off company, Durham Graphene Science, DGS, was established in 2010.
Two years on, DGS and Professor Coleman are central to a market that is projected to be worth more than £400million by 2020 and their contribution has been recognised throughout the industry.
Professor Coleman said: “It’s great that Times Higher Education has recognised the potential importance of the innovations behind Durham Graphene Science, and the huge amount of work that all the team has put in to get us to this point.”
Professor John Evans, head of the department of chemistry, said: “It’s wonderful that Karl’s work has been recognised in this way. The department has a long tradition of transferring research ideas into real world products and I’m delighted that this is continuing.”
Award judge Chris Cobb, said: “Durham’s approach to the production of synthetic graphene will have a major impact on manufacturing and allied industries, as well as research disciplines. It is difficult to overstate the significance of this innovation.”
The award was presented at a celebration event in London by actor and writer David Walliams.
John Gill, editor, Times Higher Education, said: “Anyone looking for evidence of the pioneering spirit, adaptability and sheer quality of our higher education sector need look no further than the winners of this year’s awards.”