"Graphene markets will grow from around $20 million in 2014 to more than $390 million in 2024."
Graphene markets will grow from around $20 million in 2014 to more than $390 million in 2024 at the material level. The market will be split across many application sectors; each attracting a different type of graphene manufactured using different means. The market today remains dominated by research interest but the composition will change as other sectors such as energy storage and composites grow. The value chain will also transform as companies will move up the chain to offer intermediary products, capturing more value and cutting the time to market and uncertainty for end users.
IDTechEx has been closely tracking the graphene market for over two years. It has formally interviewed and profiled more than 25 key players and end users. At the same time, IDTechEx has organised three leading conference on the topic, bringing together key players and learning the latest information first hand. IDTechEx has visited numerous other conferences and has compiled profiles on another 50 companies and organisations. Finally, IDTechEx has carried out many consultancy projects on the topic, giving it strong strategic insights.
Graphene market (US$ million)
Interest in graphene remains strong. Companies on the market multiply every year and academic investment continues to pour in. For example, the European Union has committed 1 billion Euros over a decade to research on graphene and other 2D materials, while the Korean and UK governments have each, respectively, committed at least $40 and £24 million in the past two years. At the same time, several graphene companies have floated on the public markets, fetching large valuations and therefore demonstrating the continued appetite for investment in graphene. IDTechEx counts approximately $60 million of investment in private graphene companies over the years.
Graphene is still in search of its killer application that delivers a unique value proposition or a first mover advantage. In the absence of such applications, the commercialisation process remains a substitution game. This is not meritless as graphene can target a broad spectrum of applications including energy storage, composites, functional inks, electronics, etc. The value proposition of graphene, the competitive landscape, the technical requirements, and the likely graphene manufacturing techniques will be different for each sector, resulting in market fragmentation. Therefore, the graphene market will in fact grow to consist of multiple subsets.
Functional inks are technologically the lowest hanging fruit for graphene suppliers. These inks offer low temperature processing, compatibility with several printing processes, and also ruggedness. They however occupy an awkward position in the conductivity ladder. They sit many orders of magnitude below metallic inks and pastes (silver and copper) but just above carbon paste. They must therefore identify sectors where metallic inks/pastes grossly overshoot the market requirements or sectors where carbon pastes just undershoot. The main target applications are RFID and smart packaging. These markets are characterised by low material consumption per unit therefore high volume adoption is needed to generate profitable operations. A potential differentiation from carbon paste can come in the form of transparency, which is fast being developed.
Energy storage is a very attractive target market for graphene. Supercapacitor is a high-growth sector. IDTechEx expects this market to register a 30% CAGR over the coming decade. Graphene may deliver value here thanks to high surface-to-volume ratio and early laboratory results, although technical hurdles that prevent utilisation of the full surface and in-plane conductivity remain. At the same time, activated carbon remains well-entrenched with prices as low as 5 $/Kg. There is however much interest and work behind the scenes and we expect the market to grow rapidly after 2019. Several products have also been launched to target the Li ion market, which is an attractive sector thanks to its sheet size. Here, benchmarking performance is more difficult owing to the multiplicity of chemistries and designs of Li ion batteries.
The transparent conductive film market is a also large and growing market. ITO films remain the dominant solution on the market and leaders here are ramping up the production capacity. The market however is transforming thanks to new entrants and also drivers such as growing needs for ultra-low sheet resistance, mechanical robustness and lower prices. Many alternatives are emerging including silver nanowires, metal mesh, PEDOT, and carbon nanotubes. Graphene can also be a transparent conductor but its performance is at best on a part with ITO on film, and is therefore not positioned to benefit from industry trends unless major innovation happens on the production side particularly around the CVD transfer process. Other electronic markets such as transistors are out of reach for graphene due to the absence of a bandgap.
The composite sector is also large and fragmented with many needs. Here, graphene can deliver value as an additive. Here, graphene nanoplatelets will be used. A strong point for graphene is that it can create multi-functionality. In other words, it can help increase electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, impermeability, mechanical strength, etc. A key value add will be achieving the equivalent of, or better than, what graphite or black carbon can do with much less material usage. The lower %wt will also enable a slight room for premium charging
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