Beyond the Nobel Prize, what's next for graphene?

October 13, 2010

If you had never heard of “graphene” a few days ago, you might know something about it today – if you follow the Nobel Prize announcements. 

Two physicists at the University of Manchester (UK) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene," carbon flakes that are only as thick as a single atom yet as strong as steel and as conductive as copper.  Download Full Image

But, what happens next for this revolutionary nanoscale material? 

Two social scientists began a study earlier in 2010 to understand the as yet undeveloped pathway to the commercialization of graphene – the processes, plans, promises and perils. Team leaders with the Center">">Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University (CNS-ASU), Jan Youtie at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Philip Shapira at the University of Manchester and Georgia Tech are in the throes of their project on the Comparative Research and Innovation Approaches of Graphene Centers.

Graphene is anticipated to have potential applications in electronics to build semiconductors beyond the limits of silicon-based technology. It also offers promising applications for higher performance solar cells, LCD screens and photon sensors. Now that graphene has been identified and found to be stable in ultra-thin sheets, research efforts to understand it more thoroughly and to produce it in large quantities have ballooned.Yet, graphene is still at the development stage, and its commercialization pathway remains to be determined.

To kick-off their work on graphene innovation, Youtie and Shapira have been undertaking field work in two of the world’s leading centers for graphene development: the University of Manchester and Georgia Tech. As acknowledged by the Nobel Committee for Physics when it awarded its 2010 Prize to Manchester physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, Manchester is the site of seminal work on graphene, including the first laboratory production of graphene sheets. Georgia Tech is the site of a National Science Foundation-funded Materials Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) focused on research and development on epitaxial graphene.

Youtie’s and Shapira’s project seeks to understand similarities and differences in the plans, programs and approaches to commercialize graphene-related applications in both locations. This includes examination of both the strategies for research and development and those for fostering commercialization in terms of external partnerships in the metropolitan regions of Manchester and Atlanta, elsewhere in the country, and internationally. In addition to field work, Youtie and Shapira also are undertaking analyses of publications, patents, funding, and corporate activities in graphene.

Over the coming year, Youtie and Shapira plan to expand their research focus to other locations in the United States and around the world where graphene research and commercialization clusters are emerging. Although graphene’s full impacts may take many years to materialize, the results of Youtie’s and Shapira’s research will provide real-time insights to researchers, companies, policymakers and other stakeholders keen to understand how research in specific nanotechnology domains moves into early applications, what barriers and concerns are raised, and how these are being addressed.

Youtie’s and Shapira's pilot project has received travel funding from a UK-US Collaboration Development Award (CDA) of the British Embassy and British Consulates in the United States, with supplementary support through CNS-ASU and the Manchester Institute for Innovation Research.


In 2005, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a set of major grants in nanotechnology in society, including the creation of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University (CNS-ASU) to pursue scholarship on and methodological and theoretical approaches to the social studies of nanotechnology.  In 2010, NSF renewed its grant to fund CNS-ASU for another five years. CNS-ASU is the largest center for research, education and outreach on the societal aspects of nanotechnology in the world.

The guiding goals of CNS-ASU are two-fold: to increase the capacity for social learning that informs about the available choices in decision making about nanotechnology and to increase the ability of society and institutions to seek and understand a variety of inputs to manage emerging technologies while such management is still possible. Through this improved contextual awareness, CNS-ASU can help guide the path of nanotechnology knowledge and innovation toward more socially desirable outcomes and away from undesirable ones.

CNS-ASU pursues these goals through two cross-cutting research programs: real-time technology assessment (RTTA), including such activity as analyzing research and innovation systems, surveying public opinion and values, creating opportunities for public deliberation and participation regarding nanotechnology decision-making, and evaluating the impact of CNS-ASU activities; and two thematic research clusters (TRC) that investigate equity and responsibility, and human identity, enhancement and biology.

Sustainability conferences draw international scientists to ASU

October 13, 2010

Reinforcing its role as a leader in interdisciplinary global environmental and climate change conversations, Arizona State University will host conferences for both the International Conference on Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC) and the Global Land Project’s (GLP) Open Science Meeting.

How have humans changed the Earth’s surface? How do urbanization and global environmental change interface? What are new pathways for sustainability that link urbanization and land change? How can we adapt to changes that have already occurred? Download Full Image

These themes play significantly in both of the groups’ individual and joint conferences. They are also top of mind among next-phase thinkers in the fields of environment and sustainability and are expected to play prominently in upcoming agenda-setting reports.

“The success of these conferences relies on the breadth of expertise among those participating in critical discussions,” said Rick Shangraw, director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. “ASU is a model for successful interdisciplinary processes. As such, it is a valuable backdrop for these conversations.”

The Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Project will hold its first International Science and Practice Conference, titled “Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainability in an Urbanizing World,” from Oct. 15-17, at ASU’s Tempe campus in the Memorial Union. The conference welcomes scientists, policymakers, and practitioners to engage in dialogue on the pathways through which urbanization and global environmental change interface.

The Global Land Project will hold its Open Science Meeting from Oct. 17-19, also at ASU’s Tempe campus. With the theme “Land Systems, Global Change, and Sustainability,” the conference will consider human transformations to the Earth’s surface as it also builds relationships, shares research, and creates community within its highly interdisciplinary field of international land chance science researchers.

On Oct. 17, the two projects will hold a joint conference titled “Sustainable Land Systems in the Era of Urbanization and Climate Change.” The gathering will join as many as 600 scholars and decision-makers from around the globe to discuss the relationships between urbanization, land, and climate change.

“The joint conference will focus on merging land change with urbanization processes, a link considered critical to the future of the planet,” said B.L. Turner, professor in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and also the School of Sustainability. “What do we know and what do we need to know about these linkages? Do urban heat islands affect regional precipitation patterns and thus agriculture and ecosystem at distance from the city? What configurations of the urban conglomerations prove more sustainable over the long run? How is the loss of tropical forests—the lungs of the planet—linked to urban dynamics? These are the kinds of questions that will be addressed on the joint day. The research shared will inform the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report currently under preparation.”   

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the leading body for the assessment of climate change, established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences.

Instrumental to the development of the Global Land Project, Turner and Karen Seto, chair of the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Program, realized that the two programs needed to merge their associated research communities more closely if essential issues of urban and land sustainability were to be better informed.  Cities and land use must adapt not only to climate change but to the associated needs of both. What happens in cities affects local to distant land uses, while changes in land uses affect the environmental conditions in cities, from water availability to temperature.

Another question to be posed at the conference—whether sustainability can truly be achieved in arid landscapes—is held closely by attendees from Arizona and similar climates. ASU President Michael Crow will serve as plenary chair of the joint UGEC/GLP event on this subject.

“Cities are critical entities for humanity's future,” said Michail Fragkias, Ph.D. and executive officer of the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC) project. “With the vast majority of the world's population growth expected to be urban dwellers, urban adaptation to irreversible climate change is a priority. A comprehensive understanding about the intersection of urbanization and land change processes is essential and with more than 40 countries represented at ASU for these conferences, the dialogue will be invaluable for progress.
Joining research luminaries from around the world, ASU experts involved in keynote lectures on the joint day include Grady Gammage, senior fellow at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy; Patricia Gober, ASU professor in the School of Sustainability and co-director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Decision Center for a Desert City; and Nancy Grimm, ASU professor in the School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and co-director of the NSF’s Central Arizona—Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research Project.

Four ASU representatives will also present keynotes at the Global Land Project’s conference. They are Kerry Smith, professor of economics at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business and director of the Center for Environmental Economics and Sustainability Policy in the L. William Seidman Research Institute; Hallie Eakin, assistant professor in the School of Sustainability; Ann Kinzig, professor in the School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and chief research strategist for the Global Institute of Sustainability; and Charles Perrings, professor in the School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and affiliated faculty with the School of Sustainability. Christopher Boone, professor in the School of Sustainability, will participate in a plenary session during the UGEC conference.

For more information on the UGEC and GLP conferences, go to">"> and

About">"> ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability
The Global Institute of Sustainability is the hub of ASU’s sustainability initiatives. The Institute advances research, education, and business practices for an urbanizing world. Its School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the U.S., offers integrated degree programs that advance practical solutions to environmental, economic, and social challenges;


... the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Project
This collaborative project focuses on building greater knowledge and understanding of the bidirectional interactions between global environmental change and cities at local, regional, and global scales, and integrating the work of decision-makers, practitioners, and academic researchers;


About the Global Land Project
The Global Land Project is a joint research project for land systems for the International Human Dimensions Programme and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme. The project focuses on the scientific study of how human activities on land are affecting feedbacks to the earth system and the response of the human-environment system to global change;">">