The purpose built National Graphene Institute in the heart of Manchester University’s Campus was designed to meet extraordinarily high technical specifications to facilitate research into graphene, discovered in the Physics Department at The University of Manchester in 2004. Considered to be one of the most exciting discoveries, graphene has the potential to revolutionise many areas of modern technology, it is 200 times stronger than steel and just one atom thick - making it the strongest, thinnest and most conductive material ever measured. The first products may be available as early as 2015.
As the acoustic, environmental, fire, civil and structural engineers, Ramboll helped to realise The University of Manchester’s ambitions in creating; The National Graphene Institute, a 7,825m2 building over five stories, including 1,500m2 ISO standard 5 and 6 clean rooms, which is required for nanotechnology research.
Drawing on Ramboll’s extensive experience in research and science laboratories, we were able to create clean rooms and laboratories that will accommodate sophisticated research equipment, which have both extremely low-vibration and non-magnetic requirements, made extraordinarily challenging with the £14.5m of services equipment. The main cleanroom has been designed and built to achieve the VC-D vibration criteria; a staggering 16 times more sensitive than human perception and the upper clean rooms achieves VC-B, which is 4 times more sensitive than human perception. To create the sealed environment required of the clean rooms, vast amounts of sophisticated M&E plant and duct work was needed, requiring the structural frame to provide both the flexibility for service distribution and achieve low vibration performance. This was achieved through the use of a Central Utility Block (CUB), which houses the main M&E plant over four floors. The CUB is isolated from the main building by a 50mm gap, which creates two structural frames within the building; ensuring vibration of the plant is not transferred to the vibration sensitive floors.
The building envelope is also striking, with a black perforated outer veil and communal areas that introduce warmth with bold colours that will help creativity flourish. The building achieved BREEAM very good through a combination of PV arrays, wild meadow garden terrace and selection of sustainable building materials and methods.
Stuart Lockwood, Project Manager for The University of Manchester said, "this is a truly significant building for the university and our on-going commitment to cutting edge research and development into graphene. The successful delivery of this project is a testament to the collaborative approach of the project team and has been a catalysis for further projects including the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre."