Nature

Taking graphene out of the laboratory and into the real world

I’m a business developer at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) in Barcelona, Spain. My job is to help scientists to market their ideas and inventions. Lately, most of those ideas involve graphene, a layer of carbon that is just one atom thick. Graphene is as hard as a diamond but very flexible. It’s transparent, highly conductive and extremely versatile — properties that are helping to revolutionize fields such as biomedical sensing and electronics.

In this picture, I’m holding a prototype of an especially impressive graphene-based invention: a highly sensitive neural interface that can detect brain waves at very low frequencies. It’s a huge step beyond conventional brainwave sensors.

From the outside, wafers of graphene all look alike. The sensors that do the work are microscopic. Many researchers are exploring new biomedical applications, including biosensors that can detect SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses and bacteria.

I worked on biomedical applications of carbon nanotubes for my PhD programme, which was great preparation for my current job. When researchers at the ICN2 or the Graphene Flagship invent a device, I can help them to find willing investors. Sometimes, scientists aren’t sure how their inventions might be useful in the real world. You need to understand the technology to communicate it to potential buyers.

Before the pandemic, we’d often have visitors from companies who were interested in our products. I’d show them around because I’m familiar with all of our laboratories and equipment. Behind me is a molecular-beam epitaxy machine, a fundamental piece of equipment for creating sheets of graphene. Such equipment highlights our potential and commitment to innovative technologies. I look forward to showing it off again.

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