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Vanderbilt scientist directs new national graphene association

by May. 2, 2017, 11:28 AM

Zina Jarrahi Cinker (Courtesy of National Graphene Association)

Zina Jarrahi Cinker, who got her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt last year and is a visiting scientist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, will serve as executive director of the new National Graphene Association, established to aid in the commercialization of this new “wonder material.”

Much as synthetic plastics were the wonder material of the 20th century, many are touting graphene—the first stable, two-dimensional material ever discovered—as the wonder material of the 21st century.

Since its discovery in 2004, scientists have determined that these honeycomb sheets of carbon, which are only one atom thick, form one of the lightest, strongest, heat- and electricity-conducting materials ever discovered. Despite the raft of patents that have been filed on using graphene for energy storage, electronics, smart textiles, sensors, medical devices, water purification and many other applications, so far graphene has only found its way into a handful of consumer products, including tennis rackets, ski jackets, batteries and ink.

Accelerating commercial applications of this novel material in the United States is the goal of the new association, which was founded by former Oxford Publishing CEO Ed Meek as a subsidiary of the New Media Lab LLC. The company’s profits support the Meek School of Journalism, which he endowed at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.

“I am truly honored to have been asked to lead this initiative and impact the industrial growth of graphene, the material that was the subject of my Ph.D.,” Jarrahi Cinker said.

“While Europe and China have been heavily and rapidly investing in the future of graphene, the U.S. lags behind in taking advantage of this game-changing material. We need to catch up, and we need to do it fast,” Meek stated in the news release announcing NGA’s formation.

According to Jarrahi Cinker, the focus of the organization will be “facilitating face-to-face interactions and dialogue between scientists and entrepreneurs by organizing conferences, roundtables and workshops.”

Although NGA will be headquartered in Oxford, Mississippi, it will maintain strong ties to Nashville and Vanderbilt. “One of the most frequent requests that I get from companies that are trying to develop graphene applications is to help them find an academic lab that could carry out certain testing or R&D for them,” Jarrahi Cinker said. “Based on my seven years of experience at Vanderbilt, I know that the campus not only has the research knowledge and experience but also the nanofabrication and characterization capabilities, making it excellent choice for such subcontracts.”

NGA will put on its first industry event, a Graphene Innovation Roundtable™, September 24-26 in Nashville at the Music City Center. Some of the sessions will be held on campus at the Wond’ry.