By JACK WEATHERLY
Graphene is the strongest and thinnest material in the world, and an Oxford-based company, New Media Lab LLC, aims to promote its commercial applications by forming the National Graphene Association (NGA).
Graphene will eventually find its way into almost every field and will affect many facets of human life, including energy storage, electronics, smart textiles, sensors, medical devices, bio interfaces, water purification, composites and many more, according to a release from New Media.
“While Europe and China have been heavily and rapidly investing in the future of graphene, the U.S. lags behind in taking advantage of this game-changing material,” said Dr. Ed Meek, founder of New Media and the association.
Dr. Zina Jarrahi Cinker, a graphene scientist from Vanderbilt University and a consultant and entrepreneur in the field of graphene, will serve as executive director of the association, which has offices in Oxford, Nashville and Washington, D.C.
Nature, a peer-reviewed publication, published a review of graphene in October 2012. The preface to the reviews states:
“This one-atom-thick fabric uniquely combines extreme mechanical strength, exceptionally high electronic and thermal conductivities, impermiability to gases as well as many other supreme properties, all of which make it highly attractive for numerous applications.”
Two researchers at University of Manchester in England published a paper in 2004 that stood the scientific world on its head, according an article in The New Yorker. In 2010, the researchers were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work.
But from discovery to patent to application can take a long time; hence the association’s goal to bridge those gaps.
Cinker said that in addition to being grounded in graphene research as a scientist, she also has experience in the business world. She launched her own company and found that there was little support in the new field.
For that reason, she is now devoting 100 percent of her time to help others, she said.
Since the discovery of graphene, there have been “tens of thousands” of patents awarded. South Korea, through Samsung, was the corporate leader with about 1,100 patents applied for as of 2015, while U.S.-based IBM had about 400 as of that year, according to Cinker.
NGA has launched a website, GrapheneEntrepreneur.com.
The association has a broad range of membership categories and programs designed to bring together all facets of the graphene industry, including researchers, government agencies and graphene companies, as well as entrepreneurs, investors and venture capitalists.
The association will have its first industry event, a Graphene Innovation Roundtable, in early October in Nashville at the Music City Center.
“The October event is the first in a series,” Meek said. “These roundtable events will bring together the best of the best and will put people in the same room to have real, productive conversations across industry segments.”
Meek is a former longtime professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi. He and his wife donated $5.3 million for the formation of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University.