“The dawn of a new science”

An emerging family of materials could be used to hunt and target tumours


Experts discussed the healthcare applications of graphene technology at the New Statesman Emerging Technology Conference (20 November, Institute of Engineering and Technology, London).

University of Sussex professor of experimental physics, Alan Dalton, explained that graphene can be used to make motion sensors at a fraction of the cost of existing devices.

“You’ve got something that’s cheap and non-invasive and it’s doing all the measurements that more complicated devices are doing now,” he highlighted.

“It’s a real sand pit of new materials that we have in front of us to play with,” he added.

However, Professor Dalton noted that attempts to use graphene for healthcare applications are defined by historical applications of the material.

“It does worry me that all of this technology has been patented but then the step into the marketplace is missing,” he shared.

“We have all of these materials that have unsurpassed properties compared to existing technology but there is a bottleneck to take it further,” he observed.

2-D Tech Graphene chief executive, Neill Ricketts, told delegates that the wearable sensors that can be created with graphene complemented the trend towards ‘big data’ in healthcare.

Researchers are developing technology to chemically alter graphene flakes so that they will search for and target tumours, he highlighted. 

“It makes our current level of medicine look barbaric compared to what could be here in a few years’ time,” Mr Ricketts added.

While the field of graphene technology is still in its infancy, it is showing a remarkable rate of progression, he emphasised.

“We’re starting to see a real push to accelerate this – it’s like the dawn of a new science,” Mr Ricketts emphasised.

Image credit: Erlend Davidson