November 29, 2012 – Despite graphene’s promise as a material in future electronics with excellent properties in almost all applications, it still faces difficulties in market acceptance, according to a report from IDTechEx.
The firm calculates a $100M market for graphene in 2018, as the material seems to be reaching the peak of its hype cycle: prototypes and first-generation products have been launched; a mushrooming of start-up formations has occurred; and the industry has seen a flurry of seed and early-stage funding. Several companies are already within the second or third round of financing, and the second generation of products are being launched with more realistic assessment of the near- to medium-term market opportunity, according to Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, technology analyst at IDTechEx, and co-author of the report "Graphene: Analysis of Technology, Markets and Players 2013-2018."
Figure 1: The hype cycle of graphene. Graphene is hyped but it is moving past the peak of inflated expectations.
Depending on the number of layers, purity, oxygen content, crystallinity, and form (powder or sheet), the quality of the graphene can vary, and each can be placed on a quasi-empirical chart, in which the limiting cases are graphite, graphite oxide, graphene oxide, and graphene.
Figure 2: The many different graphene types can be categorized between the limiting cases of graphene oxide, graphene, graphite oxide, and graphite. The properties will different depending on where the graphene sits within this space.
Different manufacturing techniques are used, including micro-cleavage, chemical vapor deposition, liquid-phase exfoliation, and oxidization-reduction and plasma, with a trade-off between cost and scalability vs. graphene quality, says IDTechEx. Certain techniques may be better suited for high-volume applications with relaxed performance requirements, while others serve applications demanding high performance levels.
In many cases, the main strategy for graphene acceptance is as a replacement for existing materials in products such as carbon black, carbon fiber, graphite, carbon nanotubes, silver nanowires, ITO, silver flakes, copper nanoparticles, aluminum, silicon, GaAs, and ZnO.
Figure 3: Scalability, cost and graphene quality trends for different manufacturing techniques. (Source: IDTechEx)
The industry is now gearing up to move beyond research activities, and other applications are being developed, including RFID, smart packaging, supercapacitors, composites, ITO replacement, sensors, logic, and memory. The largest near-term market opportunity for graphene beyond R&D is in composites and energy storage applications, IDTechEx says. Graphene’s adoption in transparent conduction applications will be limited because it falls short both on cost and performance compared to other options, the firm says. Similarly graphene won’t find easy inroads into transistors due to its lack of bandgap and the high level of standards set by existing materials