Graphene, touted as the next wunderkind material because of its extraordinary properties, will grow to a $126 million market in 2020, from its $9 million base in 2012, according to Lux Research. While an impressive debut for a new material, this growth is less than some of the hype may suggest.
The bulk of this market will belong to graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs), used mainly in composites and energy storage applications. However, graphene films, despite being a hot research area, will be delayed by a slew of technical and economic challenges.
“The rocky history of carbon nanotubes shows that a research and patent boom along with impressive technical performance is far from a guarantee of commercial success,” said Ross Kozarsky, Lux Research Senior Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Is Graphene the Next Silicon ... Or Just the Next Carbon Nanotube?” “Major challenges like high costs, processing issues, and competing materials loom large,” he added.
Lux Research also positioned graphene technology developers on the Lux Innovation Grid based on their Technical Value and Business Execution – companies that are strong on both axes reach the “Dominant” quadrant. It also assessed each company’s maturity, and provided an overall Lux Take. Among their findings:
- XG, Vorbeck lead the pack. “Dominant” XG Sciences and Vorbeck Materials will continue to rule among GNP start-ups, albeit with different commercialization tactics. Vorbeck has moved down the value chain into selling higher margin conductive inks, while XG supplies GNPs to corporate channel partners.
- Too early to tell on second wave of start-ups. Newer start-ups – like Graphene Technologies, Grafoid, National Nanomaterials, Xolve and Haydale – have entered the landscape with bold claims of cheaper and better graphene. All are still ranked as “High-potential” or “Long-shot” with a lack of solid traction in any application.
- Films face significant hurdles. Graphene films companies such as Bluestone Global Tech, Graphene Frontiers, Graphenea and Graphene Labs still face commercialization challenges. All are at the low end of the business execution spectrum, and a true leader has yet to emerge.
The report, titled “Is Graphene the Next Silicon ... Or Just the Next Carbon Nanotube?” is part of the Lux Research Advanced Materials Intelligence service.