Manchester’s Own Silicon Valley

The city that was the first industrialised city in the world, was home to the first ever railway station, the place where the atom was first split and was home to one of the first computers is developing a scientific hub that could become as important as Silicon Valley in California is now.

A substance that has been tipped to replace silicon and plastics as the key material of the future was discovered here in Manchester in 2004 and the scientists at Manchester University who discovered it were awarded the biggest prize in science, the Nobel Prize, in 2010.

Artist's impression of graphene


This new material is called graphene and it has just brought over £50 million of investment to Manchester, with over £38 million of that coming from government funding. This could just be the start of a lot of scientific investment coming into the city with announcement that the European Commission has dedicated €1 billion over the next ten years to the development and commercialisation of graphene.

What this means for Manchester

Forty global businesses, including Siemens based in the constituency, have held talks with Manchester University over locating at the city’s new Graphene Hub. This is great for the city as we are attracting top scientists and top businesses to Manchester, not to mention the unprecedented levels of funding that could be coming our way.

So what is graphene?

Graphene was discovered by separating flakes of graphite, yes that everyday substance that is also called pencil lead. The process involves splitting the graphite flakes until they are so small that they become graphene.

Graphene is being hailed as a miracle material because of the many ‘super properties’ that it has;

Strength – the strongest material ever measured, some 200 times stronger than structural steel

Superconductive – electricity 100 times faster than copper & best heat conductivity ever found

Stretchiness – can be stretched up to 20% without being damaged

Flexible – possibility of folding it without causing damage

Scientists are saying that these amazing properties will be able to advance our already current impressive level of technology into the realms of science fiction. The potential uses are endless, from revolutionary new takes on existing products to subtle additions that will make everyday products much better.

Have a look at this short video from Samsung to see what they think the future could be like with graphene…

3 responses to “Manchester’s Own Silicon Valley

  1. I think you mean silicon. Silicone – bath sealant, fake boobs and assorted gaskets; Silicon – semiconductors! Silicone valley would be an entirely different proposition!

  2. I spotted the typo/spelling error too – whatever would the High Masters think!

    Great piece about Manchester’s firsts.
    To clarify, [i]the[/i] first electronic stored program computer was designed and built in Manchester – we should all remember Tom Kilburn as well as Alan Turing.

    And great sales pitch for Graphene – do you know if I can buy any locally ?

  3. That’s twice that I have managed to completely change the thrust of a blog post – first by missing a word out in the title, now by my bad spelling!

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