Graphene is dropping in price as it becomes more widely available, says a new report.
"In the early days, graphene was oversold as a wonder material or a magic dust that would overnight revolutionise just about every industry," says a report from IDTechEx.
"Naturally, with time, realism has set in. Today, graphene platelets are increasingly, and rightly, viewed as part of the expansive continuum of carbon additive materials."
And, adds the report, the price is dropping: "As a new speciality material, graphene suffered from high and divergent prices and pricing strategies. This has changed. Graphene platelet prices have fallen and are beginning to converge, for now, around the $75-125 per Kg mark. Prices will continue to come down further as utilisation rates creep up, enabling more effective cost amortization."
However, the market for graphene is still in its relative infancy and suppliers are not yet turning a profit on the material, claims the report.
"The industry, as a whole, is still loss-making despite the existence of several profitable companies."
Graphene has been used in the bike industry by Vittoria, Catlike and Dassi.
Catlike uses graphene in its high-end Mixino helmet. Vittoria’s latest tyre range majors on the inclusion of graphene in its list of ingredients. Vittoria claims that adding a one-atom-thick layer of graphene allows its tyres to remain hard on the straights but soften during braking or cornering. The Graphene+ tyres are also longer-lasting and more puncture resistant, says the Italian company, and they dissipate heat more efficiently.
Graphene was first isolated at Manchester University, and the city of Manchester is capitalising on its connection with the National Graphene Institute which is based in a futuristic new building just off Oxford Road, one of Manchester’s key thoroughfares, and now equipped with a well-used cycleway.
The material was isolated – using Sellotape – by two Manchester University physicists, Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov: winning them the 2010 Nobel prize for physics (and knighthoods). “Usually when you make materials thinner and thinner, their properties deteriorate,” said Sir Andre. “But with graphene, we found things only got better.”
Graphene has been hailed as the strongest and most conductive material in the world, with a huge range of electronic and medical applications.
The university’s National Graphene Institute researched how the super-thin substance, popularly isolated from a smudge of pencil lead, can be commercialised. The building was funded by the UK Government with £38 million, and received £23 million from the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (don’t mention Brexit to a graphene scientist in Manchester; the university gets £1 million from the EU for its graphene research). The institute operates on the ‘hub and spoke’ model, working with other UK institutions involved in graphene research.
Sporting goods companies were amid the first to make graphene-enhanced products – aside from bike frames and tyres, there are graphene-enriched tennis rackets from Head.
Graphene has a tensile strength of 130 gigapascals (Gpa), and, on a molecular level, is claimed to be the strongest known material in the world, 2000 per cent stronger the toughest carbon fibre (Toray T1000 has a tensile strength of 6.3 GPa).
While we’ll never see a full frame made from graphene, it’s likely we’ll see more wheels and wheel brake tracks using the material, specifically because of its heat-dissipation properties.
Graphene is also a superlative electrical conductor and could be used to in electronic drivetrains, power meters, computers, and lights.
Vittoria has been working with graphene for nearly eight years, in association with Directa Plus, a graphene factory. Directa Plus supplies graphene to Vittoria as three-to-seven-atoms thick “nano-platelets”.
The IDTechEx report Graphene, 2D Materials and Carbon Nanotubes: Markets, Technologies and Opportunities 2018-2028 covers graphene, carbon nanotubes and non-graphene 2D materials. It provides segmented market projections, an overview of the business landscape in terms of investment, revenues, and production capacities by player, as well as interview-based company profiles.