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Graphene Scientists Awarded Freedom Of The City

Nobel Prize winning university professors only sixth to receive award since 1984

Written by . Published on February 18th 2014.

Graphene Scientists Awarded Freedom Of The City

THE TWO University of Manchester boffins behind the isolation of graphene, the world’s new ‘miracle material’, have been awarded the Honorary Freedom of the City of Manchester at a Town Hall ceremony - the highest honour the city can bestow.

“I’m thrilled to have been awarded the Freedom of the City. Manchester was home for the largest proportion of my most exciting experiments, and the local support we get is tremendous.”

Only five other individuals or groups have received the Freedom of the City award (which, unfortunately, is only honorary, and doesn't mean you can graze your cattle in Sackville Gardens or shoot a Welshman with a crossbow should he enter the Town Hall) in over 25 years, these are Sir Bobby Charlton, Tony Wilson, the GB Cycling Team, Sir Alex Ferguson and the 207 Field Hospital (Volunteers) for their service in Afghanistan.

Russian-born Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov, who isolated the material for the first time at the University of Manchester in 2004, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 and were subsequently knighted in 2012 for their ‘Services to Science’.

Graphene is the thinnest, strongest, most flexible and conductive material in the world. A carbon sheet, one-atom thick and 200 times stronger than steel (but six times lighter), the material is set to revolutionise, well, just about everything: TVs as thin as wallpaper, terabit downloads in under a second, drinkable seawater, cancer treatment, phone chare-ups in five seconds, radioactive waste clean-up and Bill Gates new super-condom.

Building on the work of the pair, Manchester shall become the world’s leading graphene research and technology hub with the arrival of a new £61m 7600 sq m graphene facility, the National Graphene Institute. Sir Andre said: “It is a great honour to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Manchester. Manchester has been my home now for almost 14 years and is very close to my heart." 

Sir Kostya said: “I’m thrilled to have been awarded the Freedom of the City. Manchester was home for the largest proportion of my most exciting experiments, and the local support we get is tremendous.” 

The Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor Naeem ul Hassan JP said: “It was a privilege to be able to present the freedom of the city to Sir Andre and Sir Kostya . 

“The significance of their work on graphene is truly breath-taking and we are yet to truly grasp the magnitude of its real-life applications.” 

“Manchester is a city born of innovation so it is only right we recognise the achievements of Sir Andre and Sir Kostya - who have joined the pantheon of scientific giants connected to our forward-looking city.” 

More information on the study of graphene at the University of Manchester here.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Alex24February 18th 2014.

It would be great if Man Con could do a follow up piece on the implications of graphene for Manchester as a city. I know the National Graphene Centre is currently being built, but I still don't understand how much of this new technology does Manchester & its University 'own' through patents etc. Is it something that the city/Uni can harness for significant economic growth over the coming decades or is the future growth of this industry likely to happen in the US or Asia? It would be amazing if it were the former but I'm yet to read an article which sheds clear light on this.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Poster BoyFebruary 21st 2014.

You are absolutely correct, but suspect the information you require is beyond the writing (as opposed to journalism) of ManCon. The ship has already sailed. The tragedy of graphene, like much of great British R&D, is that we are never able to monetise the invention through manufacture. Only then we will ever be able to participate in a new industrial revolution creating jobs and wealth for the local and national economy.

David BlakeFebruary 21st 2014.

Unfortunately Alex (but not surprisingly), China have taken out over 2000 patents on graphene, the US over 1500 and the UK only around 50 (15 of which Manchester University holds). Samsung (S Korean) alone have nearly ten times as many patents on graphene as the UK. It's become a global contest to see who can roll it out of the labs and monetise it first. Mobile phones and aeronautics look the most likely. Sadly, the UK is in no position to invest anywhere near what it'd take to compete. George Osborne did pledge £60m (most for the new facility) but that pales into insignificance compared with what powers like China can sling about. Luckily though Alex, as a nation we've always been handy at punching above our weight.

Ghostly TomFebruary 18th 2014.

What can you do with your freedom of the city? If you are granted it in London you are allowed to drive geese over London Bridge I believe. That would be fun. The right to drive swine down Market Street? Oh! Wait!....

1 Response: Reply To This...
David BlakeFebruary 18th 2014.

Funny you should ask GT, I did ring the Council Press Office to ask that very question this morning. Freedom of the City means you can do, well, sod all. You do get a nice certificate, mind you.

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2014.

No surprise the New Business Director for the NGI has a defence and MoD background. Graphene will either save us all, or kill us all.

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