By mid-2022, the global installed capacity of graphene and graphene oxide easily exceeds 12,000 tons per year, but utilization is low as orders are well backlogged. Is it a natural part of the business trip or has hype overtaken reality? Is it a case of “build it, they will come”, or are there real market needs?
What does the future hold for these graphene manufacturers? IDTechEx offers an independent perspective on these questions and more.In the latest update of its leading market report, “Graphene Market & 2D Materials Assessment 2023-2033”, IDTechEx offers the most comprehensive view of the industry. This includes player profiles based on interviews, granular 10-year forecasts, in-depth application analysis and benchmark studies.
For a long time, the graphene industry would cite a “chicken and egg” scenario: high demand for its material but limited scale and challenges investing in high-volume production without orders or revenue. Now broken, IDTechEx has tracked this industry in detail for over a decade and can report that there is a lot of capacity, but no big orders materializing.First, it should be recognized that graphene-related materials are a very broad family, from graphene oxide (GO) and reduced graphene oxide (rGO) to low-layer graphene (FLG), nanoplatelets of graphene (GNP), CVD graphene films and more. . This article will only focus on rGO and PNB, but even within that, there is a huge amount of variation in lateral size, number of layers, purity, surface area, and that’s before discussing the functionalization, inclusion in intermediates and the commercial side, specifically cost and price. So even though there may be a large capacity installed, it may not be the desired type of graphene.
There is also the issue of standardization and regulation. Regulation is a major barrier in many regions, and for many apps this is slowly progressing with some key announcements, but it takes time. Not surprisingly, unlike mature materials markets that operate globally, almost all graphene players have only one site and sell predominantly to their local market. The geopolitical situation and the increased vulnerability of supply chains present both an opportunity and a threat to these early-stage companies.
The key question is about demand. As has always been the case, graphene maintains an extensive list of potential applications in the different stages of market entry and penetration; although it is not immediately visible, orders have been coming in and sales have been increasing. The slow pace is not surprising, each industry needs time to evaluate graphene products in the market, test and validate use cases and evaluate the added value before engaging in any notable commercial adoption. In general, the applications where there is good promise and the potential for higher long-term sales are energy storage, polymer composites, and concrete. There will be other success cases with reasonable revenue, such as in textiles, filtration membranes, coatings, and thermal management, but it is these three use cases that, if graphene were to be adopted significantly, could generate sales in the tens of thousands of tons and would redraw the commercial landscape.
This follows the question of when there is a major breakthrough, how will this change the industry? Considering that rGO and PNB are mainly used as an additive, we can look at similar mature markets for comparison. Carbon black is the most obvious example where sales volumes are millions of tons, it is a consolidated market with relatively low margins; MWCNTs are graphene’s big brother, and having finally found a killer application in the cathode of lithium-ion batteries, we’re seeing the entry of big players, price drops, significant supply chain deals supply and the clear market leaders who distance themselves from competitors; see the “Carbon Nanotubes 2022-2032: Market, Technology, Players” market report for more information. IDTechEx expects a similar future for GNP and rGO, in the long term, there will not be the same number of graphene manufacturers as there are now (albeit more emerging); the first sign of this consolidation, and the dangers facing graphene makers, was seen in August with NanoXplore buying a significant proportion of XG Sciences’ assets after it ceased operations. Similarly, for higher volume applications, it will become a race to the bottom. M&A activity is also becoming more interesting, with quiet but significant activity from large graphite and chemical companies starting to position themselves.So who will be the leaders in the graphene market? There are early leaders based on capacity, sales, partnerships and other key metrics, which are tracked in the market report. There’s also the question of investment, which given that almost all graphene players (except a handful) are loss-making, is important for cash flow and growth.
Many companies overestimate the ease, capital cost, and personnel requirements to dramatically increase production and overcome all trade barriers. In IDTechEx’s view, the long-term future is bright for graphene, narrowly surpassing US$1 billion by 2032, but many have misjudged the market’s initial attraction and expected medium-term size. Hype is a great way to fuel the industry, but it can easily lead to disillusionment.This article has just focused on graphene manufacturers. There is also significant market activity across the value chain, including key functionalization IP claimants, masterbatch producers, system providers and end users. Some are vertically integrated and others remain without suppliers. These have their own technological readiness, competitive landscape, barrier to entry and addressable market. This article has presented Victory as one of the leading graphene manufacturers of the future, but this is not the case; a company with a graphene-enabled solution could carve out a high-performance niche with excellent margins. The first stages of this are already being observed, from supercapacitors to environmental remediation solutions and much more to explore.As mentioned above, there are many more types and shapes of graphene than discussed in this article and a large family of 2D materials beyond graphene entirely; these are in an earlier phase with very different global trajectories and impacts. All these are discussed in the market report.The graphene market is traveling through an inflection point. The industry will look very different in 10 years, even more so than comparing the current market to 2012. For an unbiased and comprehensive overview of the current graphene market and its outlook, see the update leading report on the topic, “Graphene Market and 2D Materials Assessment 2023-2033”.IDTechEx guides your strategic business decisions through its research, subscription and consulting products, helping you benefit from emerging technologies. For more information, please contact [email protected] or visit www.IDTechEx.com.