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Immediately he suspected he had found graphene, a one atom-thin material (a strand of human hair is between 100,000 and 300,000 atoms thick) that had, until this moment, been only a white whale of speculation among theoretical physicists.

There was, for example, Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt to lead the U. Environmental Protection Agency, a man who had previously stated his belief that there was no need for an E. And don’t forget the administration’s proposed $620 million (13 percent) cut to the National Science Foundation in its 2018 budget, and a cut of $3.1 billion (22 percent) to the U. Department of Health and Human Services, the nation’s single largest funder of basic science. On April 22, a day to celebrate Planet Earth each year, more than a million people gathered in some 600 cities to stage a March for Science.

Alchemising research into commerce often takes years.

But graphene’s world-changing moment may be at hand.

A clutch of patents illustrate its potential uses: mobile phones with folding screens, ultra-long-life batteries, aircraft wings and high-speed trains.

In 2015, to quicken the arrival of these products, Manchester University launched the National Graphene Institute, a project supported by £1 million a year ($1.3 million) in funding from the EU’s Graphene Flagship, Europe’s largest ever joint research project.

The material, it turned out, was 200 times stronger than steel; electrons would whisk across its honeycomb-like structure 1,000 times quicker than in copper.

The commercial value of the material soon became clear.

A Brexit survey run in March by Nature found that of the 907 U. researchers who were polled, around 83 percent believed the UK should remain in the EU.