1 July 2017

"Supermaterial" graphene attracts top experts

FOI recently arranged a workshop in order to bring out ideas and highlight the possibilities offered by the revolutionary lightweight material graphene. The workshop attracted representatives from a wide range of authorities, defence industries and research institutes all over Europe.


Graphene is a new material that is attracting rapidly growing attention because of its unique properties. Graphene, which consists of a thin layer of identical carbon atoms, is, for example, 200 times stronger than steel, it conducts electricity more readily than silicon, it is light, flexible, translucent and chemically resistant. The material has huge potential and the possible areas of application are numerous in sectors such as energy, environment, healthcare and transport. The workshop at FOI was focused on defence applications with a particular aim of identifying possible applications for graphene technology in defence products.

“It should be borne in mind that it can take 10-25 years to produce, approve, quality assure and validate new materials for new platforms. For example, materials used in the construction of the Airbus A380, currently one of the world’s most modern aircraft, were being developed in 1985 – 30 years ago,” says Steven Savage, Research Director at FOI who also represents the European Defence Agency (CapTech Materials and Structures).

There is great interest in graphene and many of those attending the workshop did so to gain a better understanding of how graphene can be used in both new and existing products. More than 30 experts who took part in the workshop also had the opportunity to work with a new tool, the so-called maieutics tool, which involved answering a lot of questions relating to their thoughts about graphene technology in defence applications.

The word ‘maieutics’ comes from the name Socrates gave to his art of eliciting what was in people’s minds, and a modern approximation could be ‘learning by doing’. The tool we used during the workshop is actually a computerised version of brainstorming but without the post-it notes. Its advantage is that it simplifies enormously the documentation of the responses. By meeting in this way, we have access to each other’s knowledge, so broadening our understanding and awareness of the possibilities of this material,” says Steven Savage.