IDTechEx Research released its up-to-date market report on graphene and related materials: Graphene and 2D Materials: Markets, Technologies and Opportunities 2015-2025. The latest analysis shows that the graphene market will reach nearly $200m at the material year. This year our forecasts are more granular than ever before, covering more than 17 specific application sectors.
Revenues are currently dominated by sales of small-volume but high-priced research samples. The suppliers are however aggressively building up sales pipelines across many application sectors, and we anticipate that real application sales and price falls will accelerate from 2018-2020.
The largest sectors will be composites, energy storage and functional/conductive coatings, although each one will be split across several sub-sectors. Graphene platelets will dominate the sales particularly as their selling prices plunge, while graphene sheets will remain a small niche that will grow only from 2019/2020 onwards.
This report is based upon years of research and close engagement with the community of graphene producers, investors and users. In the past four years, we have interviewed and profiled almost all the graphene suppliers globally (>40), engaged with many investors to help them select the right company and right technology, and guided many end users.
In parallel to this, we have organised 6 international tradeshows and conferences on graphene and 2D materials ourselves. These commercial conferences have become the forum in which the latest innovations are announced and the latest products are launched. More importantly, they have become the venue in which suppliers and users directly connect.
We have also travelled the world extensively to attend and lecture at all relevant conference and tradeshows, giving us further opportunity to get to know the industry well. We are confident that our knowledge and insight into the technologies, markets and applications of graphene and 2D materials is without parallel the world over.
Conductive films and inks
Graphene conductive inks target the vast performance space between carbon and metallic pastes. Initial success was limited since it performed effectively as an over-priced and slightly-improved carbon paste.
The performance is now improving towards the 1 ohm/sqr target while the price is falling. This will soon open up a range of applications such as car seat heaters, sensor electrodes, smart packaging, RFID antenna, etc.
The transparent conductive film industry is consolidating fast. Here graphene is a substitute that offers a less-for-more value proposition compared to the incumbent (ITO films) and other leading ITO alternatives. Its opportunities will therefore be limited.
In supercapacitors actual graphene electrodes punch well below their theoretical limit due to graphene stacking, poor surface utilisation and poor out-of-plane conductivity. The incumbent, activated carbon, has low prices as well as a decent actual specific capacitance.
The manufacturing processes have also been formed to handle and deposit activated carbon. It will therefore be hard to displace it en masse, although recent commercial-level results suggest that graphene will offer a more-for-more value proposition in niche sectors initially.
Graphene additives for battery electrode have already been launched. In Li ion batteries, graphene additives reduce the resistance thereby leading to increased capacity retention at high (5C) discharge rates.
In silicon anode batteries, graphene flakes can support silicon nanostructures, enabling them to expand and shrink during the charge-discharge cycles without mechanical breakage. In Li sulphur batteries, graphene oxide and sometimes friable graphene can help entrap Li sulphur intermediaries thus preventing the polyshuttle loss mechanism.
Graphene platelets are additives into composites, modifying the performance at low wt% loading values. The results are promising for thermal composites, particularly when graphene platelets have large surface areas. Graphene can also reduce permeation although nanoclays or nano silicates seem to give better results than some commercial graphenes. Conductive plastic are also possible although CNTs are more suited here thanks to their morphology.
It is critical to develop intermediaries to reduce the time to market, end user uncertainty, and health and safety concerns. This is not straightforward because graphene is hard to formulate or compound thanks to its large surface area and its tendency to re-stack.
A range of early stage applications are emerging that use graphene and other 2D materials as sensor, water filtration membrane, anti-corrosion, transistor and other materials. Graphene will fail in transistor applications although other 2D material may have a chance (ultra-long term). Graphene will find success in some sensor types in the medium to long term. Price will remain a prohibiting factor in high-volume anti-corrosion applications for the foreseeable future.
Graphene has an extraordinary set of properties and multi-billion dollar investments are being directed towards its R&D. This suggests that graphene will find use in 'other' applications which are yet to be defined. Indeed, to this date graphene is mostly positioned as a substitute but the killer application will eventually be found.