Electronic Products & Technology

Graphene turns 20 and goes commercial, reports IDTechEx

By Dr Conor O'Brien, senior technology analyst at IDTechEx, Cambridge, UK   

Electronics Production / Materials Engineering graphene

Article discusses a number of emerging graphene-enhanced products in application areas

This year has marked the 20th anniversary of the original isolation of graphene, first achieved at the University of Manchester in 2004, prior to the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. In the two decades since its isolation, graphene has been the subject of immense hype, labeled as a wonder material with superlative properties capable of enabling society-shifting technologies. In reality, the graphene market has been slow to begin approaching maturity, with limited uptake in commercial applications to date. As graphene enters its 21st year since isolation, is this outlook beginning to change?

The Advanced Materials Show, held at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham UK, illustrated the beginning of a transition point in the narrative that graphene is not yet a commercially viable product could be seen. In previous years, graphene suppliers would typically showcase the range of materials offered, often displaying a number of glass vials filled with black powder. At the 2024 edition of the show, IDTechEx saw multiple suppliers showcasing tangible products ready for commercial launch. As with all discussions regarding graphene, with the multifunctionality of the material lending itself to many applications, the breadth of these tangible products was noticeable.

This article discusses a number of emerging graphene-enhanced products in application areas such as automotive and more.

Automotive

Haydale (UK) is a long-standing manufacturer of functionalized graphene, utilizing a plasma-based approach, and has developed a functionalized graphene ink for heating applications. At the show, a heater mat for automotive use was showcased, which is claimed to be six times more energy efficient than a typical wire heater. Haydale’s solution consists of a printed heater directly on the auto grade leather. With parallel heating systems, there are multiple failure points. The heating mat heats uniformly and reduces the operational temperature of the device in order to heat the seat surface to 43 degrees, with a power usage of just 15.2 W, compared to 88 W of the standard system. Levidian (UK) is a company providing modular systems for the production of graphene and low-carbon hydrogen. At the Advanced Materials Show 2024, Levidian displayed a graphene-reinforced automotive tire. Beyond the show, previous winners of the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana have utilized graphene-enhanced tires from Vittoria (Italy), which claimed to lower rolling resistance while increasing puncture protection.

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Other applications

Graphene Composites (UK) has developed a graphene-enhanced ballistic shield based on a graphene-aerogel composite material encased in a polyethylene cover, with the major advantage being lightweighting without a reduction in performance. The shield has been tested and exceeds the US NIJ Standard 0108.01 Level III rifle protection, with a reported weight of 9 kg – half the weight of typical level III shields. An additional benefit of the shield is provided due to graphene’s thermal properties and involves hiding the user’s IR trace. This is particularly useful for avoiding detection by thermal imaging and is becoming increasingly important with the implementation of drone technology in modern warfare.

IDTechEx spoke with Hydrograph (Canada) and learned that the company’s flagship graphene product (FGA-1) has been trialled successfully by Hawkeye Bio in a biomedical sensor aimed at early detection of lung cancer. The sensor detects enzyme activity, as opposed to enzyme quantity in typical sensors, allowing improved detection of inflammatory diseases such as cancer or autoimmunity. It was stated that the “99.8% high purity and consistent geometry” of Hydrograph’s material was crucial to successful trials in the highly sensitive sensors.

Carbon Nanotubes

It should be noted that the products demonstrated at the Advanced Materials Show 2024 will typically result in low-volume orders for graphene, with the industry still awaiting the emergence of a killer application to drive the market toward full maturity. It has been argued on multiple occasions that the concrete industry could be this large volume market, but it should be noted that the 3D printed concrete market is an extremely small (almost negligible) niche within the global landscape of construction materials.

This can be juxtapositioned with the carbon nanotube (CNT) market, where a killer application has been found as a conductive additive in the current generation of lithium-ion batteries, leading to not only the rapid scale-up of production over the past few years but also significant M&A activity from major carbon black players as they enter the CNT market.

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For more details on the graphene or carbon nanotube markets, click here Graphene Market & 2D Materials Assessment 2024-2034: Technologies, Markets, Players.

 

 

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