Graphene has been touted as the next wunderkind material for the better part of this millennium, due to its exceptional mechanical, electronic, and thermal properties. However, one look at the rocky history of carbon nanotubes shows that a research and patent boom along with impressive technical performance is far from a guarantee of commercial success, as major challenges like high costs, processing issues, and competing emerging material classes loom large. What’s more, a slew of recent capacity expansion announcements threaten to throw the space into oversupply. At times when the hype bandwagon is easy to jump on, assessment of the leading developers, the current value proposition on offer versus application needs, and progress in scale-up always provide a data-driven dose of realism.
Our results reveal that the aggregate graphene market will grow from a base of $9 million in 2012 to only $126 million in 2020. Composites and energy storage will duke it out for GNP supremacy, while conductive opaque inks and anti-corrosion coatings also provide meaningful volumes. Despite the hot pursuit by start-ups and multinationals alike, adoption of graphene-based transparent conductive films (TCFs) will be delayed by a slew of technical and economic challenges, growing to just $6 million in 2020. As graphene developers continue to wrestle with the material’s exceptional properties but bevy of commercialization hurdles, savvy developers will move down the graphene value chain into graphene intermediates and products in order to garner wider profit margins and larger potential revenues. In addition, to succeed financially and avoid getting downtrodden by a looming oversupply situation, developers need to focus on ‘drop-in’ opportunities where value proposition exists versus incumbent carbon materials. In the long run, if the multifunctional capabilities of the material – including modulus, electrical and thermal conductivity, transparency, impermeability, and elasticity – can be combined in an economic and scalable manner, it could serve as an enabling platform for novel uses ranging from tissue engineering to flexible optoelectronic devices.
The focus needs to remain on a mix of creative R and disciplined D. The material in its current commercial state, don’t buy the hockey sticks the beneficiaries of hype are pitching.
Source: Lux Research report “Is Graphene the Next Silicon … Or Just the Next Carbon Nanotube?” — client registration required.