Graphene innovation in Finland

August 26, 2019 // By Henrik Sandberg
In Finland, PhD graduates are welcomed to wear a ceremonial top hat and sword for their graduation. This unusual tradition is just one of the country’s curious quirks. For instance, did you know there are more saunas than cars in Finland? Plus, despite not being known for its cafe culture, the nation boasts one of the largest consumptions of coffee in the world — an average of 10 kilograms per person a year!

What’s also lesser known, is Finland’s extensive contribution to graphene research through European project, the Graphene Flagship. Starting from the joint interest of Nokia and Finnish research institutes, soon after the experimental discovery of graphene and related materials (GRM) in 2004, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) began developing its research in this area and now plays a vital role in the Graphene Flagship.

VTT provides a shining example of incredible scientific research currently occurring in the Nordics. Headquartered in Espoo, Finland, VTT describes its research centre as a ‘sweet spot for innovation’ with a vision to change companies and wider society through new science-based innovations.

VTT’s interest in graphene sparked from discovering the potential of this new 2D material in sensing applications, and has always had a strong focus on scalable production methods; after attempting to produce wafer-scale monolayer graphene by transfer printing from layered graphite, they established in-house chemical vapour disposition (CVD) in 2010 and began to work with printed GRMs.

Since then, the centre’s interest in graphene has blossomed and paved new opportunities to explore other potential application fields for 2D materials, especially those where VTT already has strong levels of expertise. One of the most important application areas for graphene at VTT are biosensors — devices that measure biological or chemical reactions by quantifying an electrical response.

Graphene has several advantages to enable the emergence of point of care (POC) and point of application (POA) electrical quantitative biosensors, both for the professional use in health care and food industry, and for home appliances such as medication feedback and health hacking. The chemical stability and high sensitivity of graphene, together with the easy integration with CMOS — complementary metal-oxide semiconductor — readout to enable statistics and biological multiplexing, can dramatically improve both the cost structure and the accuracy of the data collected by the biosensors.

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