Spotlight on

2D Materials

In the 15 years since Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov isolated and discovered graphene at the University of Manchester, the material has been heralded as a game-changer in the research and development of new materials.

Since then, there has been an incredible surge in research and development of further 2D (single layer) materials. Literally hundreds of such compounds have been made or at least theorized, every one of them offering something new and exciting to the worlds of physics, chemistry, materials science and beyond.

The potential of 2D materials is seemingly endless, with new uses and products appearing daily.

We don’t know if this was on the researchers’ minds, as they peeled off layers of graphite with Scotch Tape to extract the single-atom thick lattice of carbon atoms, but the incredible impact of their work is without question. They have been knighted and received Nobel Prizes as a result of this ground-breaking research.

The remarkable properties of graphene are now well-known and much discussed.

  • It is one million times thinner than paper

  • It is the ‘strongest material known to man’

  • It is exceptionally thermally and electrically conductive and tuneable

  • It is flexible (it can extend to 20% of its original length if stretched)

  • It is impermeable to certain molecules

  • It is transparent

Small wonder then that over the past decade, its potential has been the subject of a spiralling number of academic papers - and a fair amount of media hype. Now it is joined by a whole host of other 2D Materials, from MXenes to monolayer TMDCs (Transition Metal DiChalcogenides), and the hype is transferring to reality.

Read our 2D Materials Blogs

From grass to graphene: could methane answer the call for rising nanomaterial demand?

From grass to graphene: could methane answer the call for rising nanomaterial demand?

by Amin Zouine

Methane, the principal component in natural gas, accounts for approximately a third of the planetary warming being experienced today1. Whilst it may have a shorter lifetime than CO2, methane is ...

Graphene Medtech: The Next Frontier

Graphene Medtech: The Next Frontier

by David Brooks

It has been 20 years since Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov first isolated graphene: the two dimensional wonder material. Since then, a huge number of applications for graphene have been ...

Hydrogels in sustainable agriculture

Hydrogels in sustainable agriculture

by Sarah Harvey

As we move into 2024, the agricultural sector is being driven by the urgent need to address global challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity, and the demand to feeding a growing global ...

Layering up: how graphene is disrupting the sportswear industry

Layering up: how graphene is disrupting the sportswear industry

by David Brooks

Earlier this year, Novak Djokovic broke the men’s tennis record for the most Grand Slam tournament wins with victory at the French Open. Djokovic achieved this feat using what appeared to be a Head ...

What is Graphene?

What is Graphene?

by Sarah Morrow

For an undergraduate scientist, the answer to the question “What is graphene?” is perhaps all ironed out. This material, one million times thinner than paper and the ‘strongest material known to ...

Invention Capture: 5 Steps to Success - Transforming Technology to Patent Protection

Invention Capture: 5 Steps to Success - Transforming Technology to Patent Protection

by Niles Beadman

Invention capturing, also referred to as invention harvesting or invention mining, is the start of every idea’s journey towards patent protection.

Learn More

The R&D Phase

The broad applicability and potential of 2D Materials has been taken up by national and international bodies. Across the world, large consortia and research centres have been formed with the aim of translating the research into this class of materials from the lab into real-world solutions.

For example, in 2013, Europe started its biggest ever research initiative, creating the Graphene Flagship to bring academia and industry together to perform coordinated research, with a budget of €1bn over ten years. In 2014 the National University of Singapore created its Centre for Advanced 2D Materials. China's 13th Five-Year Plan for 2016-2020 specifically identified graphene in its focus on new materials development for becoming one of the leading sectors of the national economy.

Closer to home, in the UK Manchester is an epicentre of 2D Material development. The National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester offers a hub for academics, researchers and industrial partners to work together on graphene applications. Research teams at the NGI have collaborated with McLaren to develop the world’s lightest watch and the University’s Professor of Materials Physics Rahul Nair, has demonstrated that graphene oxide has the potential to be used to filter water. The University’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) brings together specialist organisations from around the world to share knowledge and identify opportunities to advance the use of 2D Materials. Mewburn Ellis is an affiliate partner of GEIC, offering IP support and advice to the partner companies working there to develop products and knowledge leveraging the remarkable properties of graphene and other 2D materials.

A graphene ecosystem is developing in Manchester. A district - “Graphene City” - will be, according to Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, “built around the people who will form the world’s first labour market to be highly skilled in 2D materials. Large firms will want to locate where they can access skills and world-class collaborators. Start-up companies and SMEs will face lower risks when they know they can recruit the people they need."

Open Pages of Graphene Report

Special Report

Graphene: patenting a wonder material

Our Special Report Graphene: patenting a wonder material examines graphene-related patent publication data from the last 10 years. 

Our research reveals that graphene innovation has skyrocketed over the last decade, with the construction and energy storage industries seeing the most significant growth. The data suggest three ‘waves’ of graphene innovation, starting from early development at universities through to application in industry and then to results beginning to be realised in the last two to three years. 

Figures from industry shed further light on this significant growth and look forward to how trends might develop in the future. Is the initial ‘gold rush’ on graphene IP over, or is it only just beginning?

download here

Forward-looking for Graphene and Other 2D Materials

The current market is modest in size; the global graphene industry was estimated to be worth around $150m in 2020. But massive and ground-breaking applications are being and will be developed. Growth towards a market size of $1bn is predicted for the next 5-10 years by many sources. This only considers graphene, too – with other 2D Materials included, the market size has the potential for even more impressive and rapid growth. Graphene, as well as many of the other 2D Materials, has been discovered by scientific investigation rather than being developed for a particular use. So right now, we are in a phase of experimentation and translation: form “R” to “D”. 2D Materials are being applied from toothpaste to aircraft. We are seeing the first jumps out of the laboratory into the real world, and the rate of transition is accelerating. Graphene in particular is gradually starting to make its mark, with more and more manufacturers recognising the advantages it can bring. It is now simply a question of which directions development takes and how their times to market vary.

For example there are novel graphene-based devices across a range of fields including photonics, optoelectronics, energy storage and conversion, flexible electronics, sensors, composites and coatings and biomedical applications. Its use in composite materials for the automotive and aerospace sectors is an early win, its advantages of lightness and strength providing clear economic gains for manufacturers. In these types of structural application, there will be fewer concerns about achieving optimum purity. Other areas in which we are starting to see faster uptake of graphene are fields such as anticorrosive paint or coatings, and energy storage.

On the other hand, in those applications where there is a premium on the material’s purity and consistency - such as high-end computing and high-frequency electronics – commercialisation may seem further away. Nevertheless we are already seeing new classes of materials, and new processes, which enable 2D Materials to be applied in such fields.

As 2D Materials become better known, and more and more investigations into theirs uses are conducted, it is clear that product supply has the potential to be a major sticking point. We shall see how well processing scale up can keep in pace with demand, so that there is no prohibitive cost associated with the use of these fascinating materials.

Find out more about our expertise in the advanced materials space.

Talk to our 2D Materials Specialists

Forward Magazines Overlapping 8

Mewburn Ellis


Mewburn Ellis Forward is a biannual publication that celebrates the best of innovation and exploration. Through its pages we hope to inform and entertain, but also to encourage discussion about the most compelling developments taking place in the scientific and entrepreneurial world. Along the way, we’ll engage with the IP challenges that international organisations face every day.