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World-leading engineering experts from Ulster University and the University of Cambridge have received £2.8 million of funding for research into a carbon-based material that could transform the global manufacturing sector.

The Ulster University research will focus on carbon nanotubes, electrically and thermally conductive materials that are extremely lightweight yet strong. The research will address the production of carbon nanotubes on an industrial scale, which is currently expensive and requires long manufacturing lead times.

The properties of the material make it ideal for a range of manufacturing applications from aerospace and energy storage to solar cells and batteries.

Large scale, cost-effective production of carbon nanotubes will represent a major breakthrough for the aerospace manufacturing industry in particular. It will see current exteriors of planes replaced with the stronger, more streamlined material. This will dramatically decrease fuel consumption and reduce the operating costs of airline companies.

Professor Davide Mariotti from Ulster University said: "The applications of carbon nanotubes are endless and Ulster University is at the forefront of driving this research which will produce the material on a industrial scale and have significant impact on the global manufacturing sector.

"It is not only the aerospace industry that will benefit, for example this technology has the potential to also transform the energy storage sector by considerably decreasing battery charging times and enhancing battery life as a result of its highly conductive characteristics.

"As part of this research, we will also be working with some of UK's leading manufacturing companies to explore further applications of this innovative material."

The research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will be undertaken by researchers at Ulster University's Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC).