Graphene Market Research Tipping Point: Part 2

Dr Richard Collins
Graphene Market Research Tipping Point: Part 2
This is the final part of a two-part article written by Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, a leading industry expert and Research Director at IDTechEx, discussing the global graphene market, more information on the topic can be found in his report Graphene, 2D Materials and Carbon Nanotubes: Markets, Technologies and Opportunities 2019-2029. Or, to connect with Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh and others on this topic, IDTechEx is hosting: Graphene & 2D Materials on November 20-21 2019 in Santa Clara, USA.
Please click here for part one of this article.

Previously you mentioned that graphene does not sit in a competitive vacuum. So, what are the competing materials?

That really depends on the application, because the competing materials in each application are different. For example, graphene films might compete against ITO films or silver nanowires in a transparent conductive film application. However, in most cases, graphene competes with other forms of carbon materials such as graphite, black carbon, or carbon nanotubes. The benefits of graphene against alternatives in each case will need to be experimentally verified, and so far no universal generalized approach exists for determining, in advance and a priori, where graphene, or what graphene type, will win.
In fact, graphene itself is very diverse and many graphene types exist on the market, all different from the ideal time and some even forcefully arguing that some so-called graphenes are in fact thin graphite and are thus mis-sold. One company is however seeing it differently and wants to take advantage of the diversity of graphene to develop tailored graphene lines for each product. This company is Nova Graphene, and they too will speak at our upcoming event.
Our event Graphene & 2D Materials on November 20-21 in Santa Clara, CA also strongly focuses on this topic. Here, we hear from Cabot Corporation. Cabot is of course a major global black carbon supplier and has previously demonstrated promising work on graphene, especially in composites and energy storage applications. This year, they will however unveil a novel form of conductive nanocarbon material. As mentioned above already, NeoGraf will critically compare and contrast graphene vs graphite as a thermal material. And OCSiAl will also discuss how their single-walled carbon nanotubes, whose production they have scaled up and whose properties are akin to a rolled-up single-layer graphene, can deliver value in numerous applications as an additive.

The discussion so far has focused on graphene platelets or powders. What about the film type graphene? Any progress there?

Great question. The main focus has thus far been on graphene platelets, but that does not mean that CVD or wafer scale graphenes have been standing still. Indeed, some firms have already developed production techniques and facilities to produce CVD graphene in a roll-to-roll manner. One example is LG Electronics. At our upcoming event, Graphene & 2D Materials in in Santa Clara, CA on November 20-21, they will discuss their method and their progress towards increased web width and also overcoming some transfer-related challenges. Grolltex will discuss how they are taking steps to become a 2D material foundry. Their proposition is that they can R2R produce a variety of 2D materials- not just graphene- on flexible plastic substrates, thus enabling a set of applications.
Kukil Graphene and Chungam University will also make a promising announcement. They will discuss how graphene- directly synthesised on a PET thus no transfer step required- can be doped with nitrogen to act as the active channel of a thin film transistor device. This study hints at addressing two issues, namely, the transfer and the bandgap issues.
But not all CVD research is focused on production scale-up and related issues. Many are also developing and commercializing applications. Researchers from the US Naval Research Laboratory will also outline their progress in the use of 2D materials as highly sensitive layers which could provide a basis for electronic noses. Cardea will also discuss how they commercialized CVD graphene in a packaged electronic device for use a diagnostic test. This is an example of real commercialization.
One topic that is often neglected is the wafer scale integration of graphene and other 2D materials. This is an interesting area in which there has been significant progress in academia. Many approaches have been proposed to develop, in some case even single crystal, graphene on Si wafer. This is important because it brings both graphene -and other 2D materials- one step closer to being a material that can be integrated with silicon electronics, or one day become a wafer-based electronic or sensing platform. To capture this trend, we have invited Graphenea, a pioneering Spanish graphene company, to discuss the lab-to-fab transition of wafer-scale graphene.

And finally, significant funding has gone into the research community and many innovations, one way or another, stem from the research community. Can we also learn about the latest results at your business-focused graphene event?

Certainly. We fully recognize the importance of research. This is why this year we are holding a session in which key trends in the latest commercially-relevant academic research are summarized and discussed. This will allow our audience to get a grasp of the latest trends in a very time efficient manner and to assess how research of today can fuel the innovation or product pipelines of tomorrow.
To this end, we have invited Dr Felice from Imperial College London to outline the latest developments in the use of graphene and other 2D materials to print functional, complex, and flexible electronic devices such as transistors. This topic also fits very well with our co-located event on printed electronics. We have invited Dr Luigi Occhipin from the Cambridge Graphene Centre to discuss the latest trend on wafer-scale integration of graphene and other 2D materials for electronic and sensing applications. Dr Elena Polyakova, formerly a founder of Graphene 3D Lab and now with the National University of Singapore, is to offer a candidate and critical assessment of graphene and 2D material composites. And finally, we have Prof Kymakis, from Hellenic Mediterranean University, to outline the latest research trends and results in graphene energy devices.

You have mentioned the so-called tipping point in this discussion. What reasons do you have for thinking that such an inflection point is nearing and how do you see the current and future market trends?

Well, we assess that the graphene market has entered into a more interesting and dynamic phase. For the past several years, doubt had settled in, and the pressure was high given that few applications had transitioned to the market, even in small volumes, so people were asking: what happened to all that promise? Now that we can see some success stories - even if they are small and may not all last - there is renewed optimism. We think this behaviour is completely normal, and it is common for a new material to take time before it is commercialized.
We also assess that we are likely approaching the tipping point for graphene. The inflection point is likely around 2021/2022. There are many reasons for this argument but some include the fact that products are being commercialized, revenues are going up even though most firms are still loss-making, production capacity exists and production parameters including consistency have improved, prices have become lower, and finally the suppliers and users have a more realistic and focused view of where graphene use could deliver value. This last point - proper strategic market segmentation - is very important and represents hard-won strategic asset and know-how for many firms. Overall, we think the industry has the potential to become a $300M market by 2028 or so.
The business landscape is being transformed. We think some consolidation will take place and indeed has already begun. Just look at the speaker list in our previous version of events; some of those firms have left the business and some are very - almost worryingly - quiet in the market. Some also have limited financial resources and/or no clear strategy for breaking out of their current predicaments and thus will likely struggle. Some firms, though, are pulling ahead of the rest and are showing signs of likely winners.
So, in general we think that the industry is re-entering a renewed phase of excitement. This is why this year we decided to further expand our graphene programme in the USA. By the way, I forgot to mention that our event is co-located with our other synergetic events including those on electric vehicles, energy storage, innovative sensors, wearable electronics, and printed or flexible electronics. Overall, we expect over 3500 attendees and 270 exhibitors. Please see for further information.
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