Graphene: Finally moving out of the lab and into the market?
Graphene materials are progressing through their own hype curve. The commercialization has been making steady progress and IDTechEx expect the graphene market to significantly grow over the next decade.
Nanoplatelets are the closest to commercial success, with many market drivers and factors:
- Increasing industry experience: in the early days graphene was oversold as a wonder material or a magic dust that would overnight revolutionize just about every industry. 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.
Furthermore, the market now realizes that there are many graphene materials and not all are equal. Although there is some progression towards standardisation and safety legislation/qualification. Nevertheless, the end-users now accept that the winning materials cannot be determined a priori as final application-level results are influenced by many parameters such as graphene morphology and formulation/compounding techniques and conditions.
- Increasing availability: graphene has diverse useful properties and as a result a diverse application pipeline. Most target applications however are volume markets. Therefore, suppliers have had to take the risk to invest in sizable production in the face of small and uncertain demand. This has been inevitable because otherwise suppliers could never progress past the phase of prototyping or performance demonstration. This process (of installing capacity) has made such significant progress worldwide and that availability, in the medium term, is not a major industry concern.
Interestingly, and as is now familiar in many industries, China has become the significant territory in terms of nominal production capacity. Its rise to prominence has also made direct liquid phase exfoliation the leading process by share of production capacity.
- Increasing affordability: similar to CNTs, graphene powders and platelets are largely a substitute material providing an iterative improvement over carbon black, graphite or other additives. As such, it must compete on price as well as performance with incumbent solutions. As a new specialty material, graphene suffered from high and divergent (by orders of magnitude) prices and pricing strategies.
This has changed. Graphene platelet prices have fallen and are beginning to converge, for now. The prices will however not settle around a single point, reflecting the diversity of graphene types and giving it a speciality chemical character. Furthermore, suppliers will be reluctant to further cut costs out of fear of premature commoditization, although the continuation of this trend has an air of inevitability to it. In the long term, IDTechEx anticipates significant consolidation in the number graphene manufacturers over the next decade.
- Increasing revenue and volume sales progress: our data suggests that income at the graphene company level has been rising steadily since 2013. This rise, which is reflected largely across the board, will continue at similar rates until 2021/22 around which time our model suggests an inflection point will occur, putting the market into its rapid volume growth phase.
- This rise in revenue however has not always been accompanied with increasing profit. In fact, the opposite is often true in that losses have grown in line with revenues. Indeed, the industry, as a whole, is still loss making despite the existence of several profitable companies.
This is no surprise, but is likely to soon change. Experience has demonstrated that new materials take years, if not decades, to commercialize. Graphene is also no exception therefore this behaviour is in our view a natural part of growth process of the industry.
- Key market drivers include the necessity for improved thermal management, sustainability (with the role for graphene enabling use of recycled polymers, energy storage systems, and even concrete), lightweighting & product lifetime, and more.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt by the graphene industry in delaying scale-ups, development trials, and general operations. This may be irreversibly consequential for some, but for many it will just delay the commercial success.
Graphene Market and 2D Materials Assessment 2021-2031. IDTechEx forecasts that the market will grow from <$100m in 2020 to reach $700m by 2031. Since graphene is still largely an additive material, this means that we will find graphene, of different types, in numerous volume applications in the years to come. True success will be when graphene inclusion isn't the headline news but rather a largely unmentioned inclusion for economic reasons given the value added properties This success, it is worth remembering, will not have come overnight but will have been the results of almost two decades of steadfast global research and commercialization efforts.
Graphene films and wafers have had a very different history and outlook. Given the obvious potential, certain key applications were initially targeted including transistor and TCFs, however the lack of band gap and high-performance incumbent materials coupled with manufacturing challenges has led to an inevitable realisation of limitations. However, with manufacturing improvements and further developments, commercial successes are being observed mostly for sensors and optoelectronic applications. Expansions are being observed and the next 10-years looks very promising for certain key end-user markets.
Non-graphene 2D materials?
Beyond graphene there is an emerging family of 2D materials, each with unique properties and potential across a range of commercial applications. Nearly all are at a very early stage of development; IDTechEx provides a detailed assessment and outlook with a specific focus on boron nitride, transition metal dichalcogenides, MXenes, and Xenes. Key technical progressions, prospective market applications, profiles of early-stage commercial companies, and detailed insights are all included within the report.
What about other nanocarbons?
Graphene is not the first nanocarbon or indeed nanomaterial additive to emerge out of the lab; throughout the report key benchmarking studies are given against competitive materials. There is also a lot to be learnt from the materials that have gone before; information is provided on the commercial progression of multi-walled and single-walled carbon nanotubes. MWCNTs went through a premature period of capacity expansion and it is only in the last few years that the significant revenues and next stages of expansion are beginning to emerge.
What does this report provide?
This report provides the following:
Introduction and business dynamics/trends
- Disparity between ideal and non-ideal graphene and CNTs
- Diversity of graphene on the market
- Pricing evolutions, trends and strategies worldwide for graphene
- Nominal production capacity by supplier worldwide for graphene
- Categorization of graphene manufacturers by production processes
- Granular analysis into the patent landscape
- Trends in company revenue and profit/loss
- Companies valuation trends
- Specific look at China (for graphene) covering key emerging Chinese suppliers, applications and prices
- Applications examples, pipeline and readiness levels for graphene.
- Benchmarking studies and market comparison to CNTs
Ten-year segmented market forecasts
- Ten-year application-segmented market projections for graphene (platelet and film) in volume and value. Segmented by 18 end-use applications.
This report has dedicated chapters for key end-use applications. End-use applications include energy storage (lithium-ion, silicon anode, LiS, supercapacitors and other); polymer composites (mechanically-enhanced, permeation-enhanced, electrically conductive, thermally conductive, EMI shielding, 3D printing filaments, tires, other); inks and coatings (anti-corrosion coating, RFID antenna, other); transistors; transparent conductive films; sensors; thermal interface materials; concrete & asphalt; e-textiles; metal matrix composites; filtration; and more.
IDTechEx has interviewed more than 150 companies for this analysis. This report includes a large number of key company profiles and updates for the reader.