Graphene Hackathon 2021: ingenuity and ambition on show in global competition

The second edition of the Graphene Hackathon delivered a wealth of creativity as teams battled it out to win prizes for the best business idea using graphene.

The 2021 event – held from 26-30 April and run by PhD students from The University of Manchester – was hosted virtually due to Covid restrictions but the online platform had the benefit of turning the competition into a truly global affair. 

Thirty-five teams from around the world, including participants from Argentina, India and Indonesia, worked throughout the week on their ideas before pitching to a panel of industry experts.

Alongside the challenge element, the Hackathon team also produced a series of short sci-comms and outreach videos, detailing the uses and deployment of graphene in different fields, from water desalination to computing and space applications.

Attendees also took part in Q&A sessions with experts in graphene research and development, including pioneer and Nobel laureate Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov (below).

The event was hosted at the Bright Building at Manchester Science Park, generously provided free by Hackathon sponsor Bruntwood SciTech. MC duties were provided by science communicator, comedian and podcast host Dr Luke Chaplin.

In the winners’ circle

First prize in the Healthcare Challenge went to the SENSE team for their smart, chronic wound-monitoring patch. They won £250, plus an additional £100 Innovation Prize, three months’ office space at Alderley Park (also courtesy of Bruntwood SciTech) and an hour’s IP consultancy time with Potter Clarkson.

Winners in the Sustainable Industry Challenege were Honeycomb Ink, with low-cost piezoelectric energy harvesting floor tiles for festivals and public events. They won £250, plus a £65 award from LABMAN Automation.

Other winners included:

  • FRAS Sustainable Solutions: retrofitting graphene thermal management for plane wings to prevent ice formation.
  • Nanocomb: eTextile muscle movement monitor for elite athletes, dubbed a ‘physio in your pocket’.
  • Graphene Prosthetics Ltd: graphene nerve conduction prosthetics to alleviate phantom nerve pain in amputees.
  • Hex: mattress topper sleep tracker.

Scott Dean, founder of Graphene Trace, was a member of the Hackathon organising team of PhD researchers and said: “Hosting the Graphene Hackathon virtually this year gave us the opportunity to reach further than ever before. 

“We were amazed at the quality of the teams’ ideas, from energy harvesting systems to next-gen wireless chargers and remote health monitoring solutions. Each idea was very different from the next and each enabled by the same material – graphene.

“We are very grateful to our wonderful sponsors for all their support in making this event so successful, and to all the teams for their hard work.”

Scott also thanked the judging panel, featuring senior staff from LABMAN, Bruntwood SciTech, the Henry Royce Institute, Catalyst by Masdar, Nixene Publishing and the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre.

You can view the videos produced for this year’s event at the Graphene Hackathon YouTube channel and find out more at the GH website.

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