Graphene, despite being hailed as a wonder material, has been slow to commericalize. Premature graphene scale-up by groups like Ningbo Morsh Technology and Angstron Materials led to an immense glut that has long outweighed demand. Lux emphasized graphene commercialization hurdles since 2012 and stressed that the materials-push, pursue-every-application approach many companies take is more likely to lead to failure than focused strategies. Start-ups in this struggling graphene space have since begun to eke out worthwhile applications, and Lux wanted to evaluate which areas are most promising.
Nature magazine recently hosted top graphene innovators for a conference titled Graphene: The Road to Applications in Cambridge, MA. The goal of the conference was to temporarily leave aside academic discussions on graphene’s electrical properties and explore real-world prospects for graphene-enabled products, and. One significant conclusion reached was that graphene nanoplatelets have consistently shown progress in performance (electrical, mechanical, thermal), functionality, and scalability. The top platelet developers were all in attendance: Angstron Materials*, Vorbeck Materials*, and XG Sciences*; and all outlined future plans during the conference’s panels and speeches.
Bor Jang, CEO of Angstron Materials, said the company is targeting energy storage applications, and promised a high-performance lithium-ion battery additive within one year, plus a graphene-enabled supercapacitor within two years.
Lawrence Drzal, Founder of XG Sciences, outlined several pathways for deploying graphene as a conductive and structural composite additive. The most notable is XG’s work on replacing volumes of sheet-molding compounds (SMCs) in automotive applications. SMCs are typically a mixture of chopped glass fiber, calcium carbonate, and epoxy resin, coated with conductive paint. Most vehicles contain 100 pounds of this mixture. Thus, if graphene can replace the conductive coating while adding mechanical strength, it could be a significant market with a compelling value proposition.
Finally, John Lettow, President of Vorbeck Materials, announced that a high-volume consumer product using his company’s graphene inks would be available in stores during the third quarter of 2011. This product resulted from an ongoing partnership with a leading printing corporation (likely Xerox or a similar level competitor). John said the product will feature electronics based on patterned Vor-ink, Vorbeck’s graphene based conductive ink. We’ll keep tabs on the details as they emerge.
* Client registration required.