The Graphene Market Research Tipping Point: A Discussion With the IDTechEx Research Director - Part 1

Source: IDTechEx Research Report "Graphene, 2D Materials and Carbon Nanotubes: Markets, Technologies and Opportunities 2019-2029" (

​In this two-part article, Dr. Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, a leading industry expert and Research Director at IDTechEx, will discuss 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 Nov. 20-21, 2019, in Santa Clara, USA.

People often talk about the killer application for graphene. Has one yet been found?

A killer application is one that has a large market and is uniquely enabled by that technology. Some technologies can become commercially successful over time without requiring a so-called killer application - and I believe this is the case for graphene. 

In fact, one point of strength for graphene is that it has such a diverse and deep application pipeline. The image below demonstrates this. The image shows that (a) some applications beyond R&D are already in the early phases of commercialization, (b) that many other applications are close to commercialization, and (c) that the application pipeline is deep. Of course, graphene cannot be expected to succeed in all of these applications, but equally, it is unlikely to fail in all. As such, this diversity will give, on the aggregate, a strong long-term resilience to the market.

 ​So, are there successful applications of graphene already?

Yes, some applications beyond R&D use have already been commercialized. Indeed, our Graphene & 2D Materials ( event in California is a very strong reflection of this trend towards the commercialization of graphene.

Graphene in automotive has been an interesting story. Last year, at our event, we heard from XG Sciences, who discussed the use of graphene in vehicle under-the-hood applications for customers such as Ford. At this year’s event, which will take place on Nov. 20-21, 2019, in Silicon Valley in California (Santa Clara), you will hear from Martinrea, a $4 billion, major auto parts manufacturer, together with NanoXplore, a graphene company with ambitious scale-up and pricing plans.

An interesting related area is in the use of graphene in polyurethanes. This has already been commercialized. Last year, you heard from First Graphene Ltd on how graphene was used in polyurethane wear lines. This year, you will hear from Grafine, who will show how graphene can add value in polyurethane sports shoes and how it is already commercialized. Of course, graphene can be added to many other materials to form advance composites. For example, this year you will hear from Qenos Pty Ltd, a major Australian polyethylene producer, about how graphene can add value as an additive to this polyethylene.  

Energy storage has seen important commercial developments. Indeed, we understand that graphene has been deployed in the battery of some electric vehicles in China. Therefore, as with every year, we are putting a heavy emphasis on this topic in our event too.

This year you will hear from Global Graphene Group, a major pioneering graphene company. They have also developed graphene-Si composites and will, this year, discuss their journey towards graphene-enabled electric vehicle batteries. We will also hear from JMC: a major Korea producer with long-standing expertise in the production of sulfur-based fine chemicals. JMC will also discuss their work towards bringing graphene oxide into energy storage devices. 

The event will also include NanoGraf, a developer of graphene-Si energy storage and a company that recently received funds from JNC Corp in Japan. Silicon anode, as you know, can potentially dramatically increase the energy density but suffers from a very limited cycle life due to the physical expansion of silicon particles. Graphene-Si anode composites, however, can offer a good balance between energy density and lifecycle. William Blythe, an old British fine-chemical manufacturer, will also discuss their work in graphene in li-ion anodes. Finally, we will hear from Graphene Batteries on their progress towards Li-sulphur batteries.

Another key application is the use of graphene in thermal management. This year, at our Berlin event, we heard how Sixth Element was using its rGO to develop heat spreaders for mobile phones and how this was already a 150-200tpa order. In the upcoming U.S. event, we have invited NeoGraf Solutions, a renowned U.S. company active in flexible graphite thermal management solutions. In this talk, we will hear how graphite and graphene actually compare in terms of thermal management properties. This is an important discussion, as in many graphene events many pretend that graphene exists in a competitive vacuum!

In general, we think graphene commercialization is approaching its tipping point, where the market volumes will take off. There is extensive experience in the industry both on the supplier as well as the end-user side. The prices have come down and the production capacity now exists. Crucially, the industry has spent years trying to determine which graphene markets do, and which do not make sense. This is no easy feat and has certainly taken collective industry time. In fact, the issue of end-user views and their perspective and experience is critical. This is why in our event we have also invited the likes of Morgan Advanced Materials, a billion-pound British material producer with expertise on advanced carbons and ceramics, to share their views on how graphene has been and can be better, translated from the lab to the market.

Yes, but these are all relatively high-profile target markets. You mentioned that the application pipeline is robust. So, what are the other emerging target markets?

In terms of platelets, there are of course many other applications beyond those mentioned above. Our event also reflects this strongly, so please allow me to use this event as a way to highlight some key trends.

Graphene has been proposed for water filtration. Here, we hear from Standard Graphene and their recent results in this regard. Note that this Korean company has recently announced that they have installed a graphene-based water filtration installation in Nepal. 

We will hear from University of Manchester, who will share their progress on the use of graphene in concrete. This is potentially a very high volume application, however, the price pressure and capacity requirements are still tough, and graphene-based results will need to be better benchmarked against competing materials.

We will hear from Quantag Nanotechnologies, a Turkish company that has developed a method to create stable solutions of graphene quantum dots for use as in-liquid security tags. Another startup that is proposing the use of graphene as a quantum dot material is GOLeafe. They too will speak at our event. In general, quantum dots are a success story in displays, but those quantum dots have high quantum yields and narrowband emitters or downconverters. Carbon-based ones, however, have different attributes and will, thus, have different target markets.

We will hear from Imagine Intelligent Materials, an Australian company wishing to integrate graphene into technical textiles for smart surface sensing applications. We will hear from NTherma on their work to create stable graphene-in-oil suspensions and how these suspensions, based on their road test results, can reduce the coefficient of friction and improve fuel efficiency. And last but not least, Graphene Tech S.L. will share their progress on industrialization and also on applications of graphene in flexible and wearable applications.

So, overall, you can see there are many emerging applications of graphene beyond coatings, energy storage, composites and thermal management and that our event strongly reflects this.

Many applications that you mention require high volume and secure suppliers at reasonable prices. So, can graphene actually be produced in large volumes today?

This is a great question. The industry has been faced with that classic chicken-and-egg dilemma. The end-users will not advance discussions past demonstration performance in the absence of proved ability to securely and safely offer consistent supply, and the suppliers - often startups in this field - find it difficult to raise and invest capital faced with no confirmed orders and with speculative orders.

However, the industry has taken important steps to address this issue. Today, there is a capacity on the scale of several thousand tonnes. Again, I share the chart below to showcase this. Some players have multi-hundred capacity. Furthermore, part of the industry has renewed confidence in itself, and this is shown by the fact that many have announced very aggressive scale-up plans. I also share an image to show this. In this image, your readers can see how the capacity will expand if all the announcements come through. It is not a prediction but an aggregation of what all the announcements, if they come true, would amount to. Interestingly, if these announcements do take place, the balance of production capacity will shift towards the rest of the world from China.

This is, therefore, an important point, and that is why our event also focuses on this. In California, you will hear from NanoXplore, a company that put in place one of the most ambitious capacity scale-up plans worldwide. Global Graphene Group will discuss their production processes; JMC will talk about their stable rGO capability; Abalonyx will talk about their scale-up plans for their well-controlled rGO process, and Talga Resources will give an update on their scale-up progress and also on their strategy towards creating an integrated production-to-product approach.

The story is not just about scale, though that is important. It is also about innovation in production. And here too there are many noteworthy innovations. For example, Texas A&M University has developed a method to overcome the disintegration of graphite electrodes during the electrochemical process. Nano disintegration of the graphite electrode as the method progresses, or Nanotech Energy, claims to have a top-down rGO process that allows exfoliation without any compromise in intrinsic graphene qualities. 

Please look out for the next part of this article, where Dr. Khasha Ghaffarzadeh will answer questions around the competing materials to graphene, the “tipping point” in the graphene industry, the future market trends and much more.

Register for Graphene & 2D Materials on Nov. 20-21 2019 in Santa Clara, USA at

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