Fullerex talks graphene pricing; identifies growth areas and supply targets

Nanomaterials broker Fullerex has updated its pricing report on graphene, which includes up to date sale prices listed according to order size across the various nanopowder grades of graphene currently available in bulk quantities. The report also analyses a range of market opportunities including composites, lubricants, 3D printing and concrete. By exploring these sectors in detail, the report identifies price-points that graphene would need to reach to penetrate each of these industries.

“In the near-term we see functional fillers as being a growth area for graphene commercialization,” Tom Eldridge, co-founder of Fullerex, told TMR+. “The challenge for graphene providers has been supplying the material in a format that’s ready for customers to use.”

Today, graphene makers are responding to the issue by formulating their materials as inks, dispersions and even masterbatches, which make it easier for customers to integrate graphene into their manufacturing processes.

It’s a critical step in building the market and generating compelling performance data. Longer term though, Eldridge believes that there’s a ceiling to the amount of processing and materials development that graphene providers, many of them small firms, can undertake.

“As you move up the value chain the burden of R&D falls more and more on the nanomaterials producers, which strains the resources of these companies,” he explained.

Another factor to consider is ‘supply availability’ if graphene is to succeed in high-volume sectors such as plastics and concrete.

“If you consider mainstream commercial markets then a supply capacity of thousands of tonnes is a drop in the ocean compared with the supply of other global commodities and what would be required of graphene in these sectors,” Eldridge said. “On top of that virtually none of today’s supply of graphene is interchangeable.”

Standardization in the classification of graphene (see – CARBON 65 2013 1-6) and the coordination of product definitions have a role to play in addressing this. As the user base for graphene expands, Eldridge is confident that this activity will pick up.

“Once these materials can prove their commercial worth and generate demand then these supply problems can be overcome, particularly if the right financial tools are in place and the market is operating efficiently so that communication is made effectively between participants to instigate some cooperation,” he commented. “This is what we feel the role of a broker/merchant such as Fullerex can bring.”

Related stories on TMR+

From the lab to the factory floor: financial tools for upscaling production of nanomaterials

Related articles from the journal Translational Materials Research (TMR)

Graphene: overcoming the hype

Online graphene course educates engineers in 2D materials

Materials MOOC: Introduction to Graphene Science and Technology (course preview)

Chalmers University of Technology, which coordinates the European Commission’s EURO 1 billion Graphene Flagship initiative, is launching a series of MOOCs – massive open online courses – beginning with an “Introduction to Graphene Science and Technology“.

Spread over 10 weeks, the graphene primer will be presented by Jie Sun of the Quantum Device Physics Laboratory, which is part of the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience at Chalmers.

“At the end of the course, an engineer should be able to determine if graphene is suitable for the company’s products, and a student should be able to decide if the subject is of interest for continued studies”, he explained.

To enrol, visit the edX platform, which also features online material from MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Delft University, EPFL, The University of Tokyo and many other institutions.

The course is “free of charge and accessible to anyone with a computer” and starts on 23 March 2015.

Update [24 March 2015]
It looks like plenty of people want to know more about graphene. The Chalmers’ MOOC now has 5000 learners signed up, according to the organizers. For more updates, follow @GrapheneMooc on Twitter.

Related stories on TMR+

Video highlights from Graphene Week 2014 (Gothenburg, Sweden)

Show report: Graphene supply, application and commercialization 2014 (Manchester, UK)

Video highlights from Graphene Week 2014 (Gothenburg, Sweden)

Graphene Week is now the annual showcase event for Europe’s Graphene Flagship programme – a 10 year, Euro 1 billion initiative that hopes to accelerate the translation of the so-called wonder material from lab to market. For attendees, the five-day conference is a chance to find out what big names in the field such as Nobel-prize-winner Andre Geim think about graphene’s prospects.

As Geim observes in the clip, currently applications are focused on using graphene as a substitute to other materials. But what he’s really looking forward to are applications unique to graphene – uses where the 2D allotrope of carbon performs a function that no other material can achieve.

Other experts at the event included leaders of the Flagship’s 16 work packages (WPs). Andrea Ferrari (WP 5 – Optoelectronics), who’s based at the Cambridge Graphene Center, sees graphene’s optical properties as beneficial for shaping laser pulses and creating photodetectors that operate in the infrared.

Joining Ferrari on WP 5 is Frank Koppens – group leader at ICFO in Barcelona. Koppens is already talking about building prototypes and taking devices out of the lab to demonstrate the industrial relevance of graphene in areas such as automotive night vision.

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Show report: Graphene supply, application and commercialization 2014 (Manchester, UK)

It’s been 10 years since graphene was isolated by Geim and Novoselov at Manchester University in the UK. Today, graphene is available to purchase from a range of suppliers, you can buy equipment for growing it on wafers and foils and you can find graphene in products on the market, but the so-called “wonder material” is still in the early stages of its commercial journey.

Taking shape: the National Graphene Institute at Manchester, UK. The state-of-the-art facility is due to open in March 2015, but staff will start moving in from October this year to begin proving out the building services.

Taking shape: the National Graphene Institute at Manchester, UK. The state-of-the-art facility is due to open in March 2015, but staff will start moving in from October this year to begin proving out the building services.

“Short term applications will pave the way towards the principal uses of graphene,” Jani Kivioja, head of nanomaterials at Nokia, told attendees at LBC’s popular graphene conference series – now in its second year – which examines prospects for the 2D allotrope of carbon from an industrial perspective.

Early wins
TMR+ has reported graphene’s use as an additive to prevent drilling fluid degradation at high-temperature (see – Agensi Inovasi Malaysia and Graphene Nanochem team up to develop innovation hub), and there were other early wins presented at the event. Ready-for-market examples included a transparent conductive coating from TBA, which provides electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection to industrial lighting in explosive environments such as oil refineries or mining works (see TBA case study – PDF).

Graphene coatings are also of interest to Tata Steel, another attendee at the meeting. The firm sees the material’s barrier properties as an option for delivering anti-corrosion performance and extending the lifetime of its major products.

Plastic fantastic
Other areas with market potential include composite materials, where graphene’s high strength makes it an attractive additive. Its sheet-like form is beneficial during processing as graphene platelets flow easily over each other unlike carbon nanotubes, which can knot together and make composite mixtures much more viscous and harder to manage.

Karl Coleman, a professor at Durham University and one of the founders of Applied Graphene Materials, added that graphene is very good at reducing nitrogen permeation in thermoplastics, which is of interest in the packaging sector. Also, the low loading levels required preserve colour and transparency in the host material, which can be significant. Coleman is involved in Grapol, a four year project sponsored by EPSRC and partnered by Proctor and Gamble, and Dyson – two big consumers of thermoplastics.

As Coleman and others highlighted the effective integration of graphene into host materials is strongly dependent on surface functionalization, which is an area that suppliers such as Haydale are targeting with their plasma-treated graphene nanoplatelets. Surface functionalization also opens the door to the use of graphene in sensing applications, a sector that Nokia was upbeat about.

But will this be the killer application? For graphene to really take off there is a sense that it has to offer something different, something that no existing material on the market can do.

“Where I believe graphene can make a difference and be potentially disruptive is through its multifunctionality,” commented James Baker, who has moved from BAE Systems to become business director at the UK’s National Graphene Institute (NGI) – a £61 million facility under construction at Manchester University.

Graphene is unique in possessing so many record-breaking properties, but as we’ve mentioned previously on TMR+, designing multifunctional components to capitalize on this requires significant developer resources (see – Trajectories in translation: parallels between old and new materials) and pushes out the timeline for translating breakthroughs into the marketplace.

Facilities such as the NGI intend to bring academia and industry together under one roof to accelerate the commercialization of graphene from technology readiness levels 3-5 into early process validation. In September 2013, graphene CVD expert Bluestone signed up as the NGI’s first strategic partner and the building is on track to open in Q1 2015.

Reality check
Achim Hoffmann of IP group, a UK-based team of investors bridging the chasm between science and the city (financial district), reminded attendees that graphene is “technology before application”, which adds to the challenge. “We invest in businesses and value propositions – not materials,” emphasised Hoffmann. “Start-ups need to focus on who their customer is and how they address the market.”

Dispite the difficulties, a commercial landscape for graphene is emerging. Mark Rahn of MTI Ventures, who also spoke at the event, estimates that there are 23 countries (at least) with graphene companies. Europe hopes to be a major player through its Graphene Flagship, and across Asia there’s a wave of companies now making graphene in some shape or form – a point made by Kitty Cha of BASF and echoed by my colleagues at IOP China.

Device development
Seungmin Cho was representing Samsung Techwin at the workshop and talked about his team’s work on transparent electrodes. Using a graphene/PET film created by roll-to-roll processing, the group has demonstrated the manufacture of fully functional 4” touch screens – see ACS Nano 8 (2014) – but whether these devices make it into full production remains to be seen. “We need to find something that ITO cannot do,” Cho told the audience.

I got the impression from Shu-Jen Han’s presentation that graphene could be a hard sell in digital logic chips too. Han is a master inventor at IBM’s Yorktown Heights site in the US. The lack of a band gap in graphene means that devices are hard to turn off (in other words, you can write 1’s, but it’s tricky writing 0’s). There are ways of modifying the material to get around this, but from a commercial perspective the additional steps required are unattractive.

RF electronics on the other hand could be a much better match for the material. “For analogue devices you don’t have to turn the transistor fully on or fully off,” he explained. The IBM team has built a test circuit that can demodulate a digital signal carried over RF – see Nature Comm. 5, 3086 (2014). What’s more, the graphene chip was stable across a wide temperature range and up to high temperatures, which differentiates the device from versions made using traditional semiconductors.

Large organizations taking an interest in graphene include Lockheed Martin, which sees water security as a key part of its future business and believes that the 2D material could play an important role. To explain, Steve Sinton – principal chemist and Lockheed Martin fellow – introduced his team’s work on a perforated graphene membrane dubbed “Perforene”, which is seen as a promising platform for water purification (see datasheet – PDF). The work is early stage, but already the group has demonstrated that “Perforene” can reject salt ions from a test solution and copper from industrial wastewater, which has potential benefits in areas such as the electronics industry.

These are just a few highlights from what I found to be an insightful two days of talks and discussion. For further details on the event visit – www.graphene-applications-2014.com – and for more on graphene, check out the links below.

Related content on the web –


Graphene: fabrication methods and thermophysical properties (Physics-Uspekhi)

Graphene: Applications and future uses (IOP)

Graphene coverage on nanotechweb.org

Graphene circuit ready for wireless (IBM Research blog)


Aixtron # Applied Graphene Materials # Bluestone # Cientifica # Graphoid # Haydale # Ocsial # Perpetuus # Planartech #

World Economic Forum announces top 10 emerging technologies for 2014

3D printing, self-healing materials and energy-efficient water purification were tagged by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies as breakthroughs last year, but what does the future look like in 2014? Something that won’t come as a surprise is the key role of advanced materials in driving technology to the next level, as illustrated by our highlights from the 2014 list –

  • Body-adapted Wearable Electronics
  • Small, lightweight and flexible components together with specialized coatings to protect products from sweat and rain. Applications include navigation aids, health monitoring devices and surgical tools.

  • Nanostructured Carbon Composites
  • Lighter, stronger materials for more efficient vehicles, which are easy to recover and reuse.

  • Grid-scale Electricity Storage
  • More affordable alternatives to pumped storage hydropower for overcoming the intermittent nature of clean energy. Concepts being explored include flow-batteries and graphene supercapacitors.

  • Nanowire Lithium-ion Batteries
  • Ramping up battery energy density will extend the range of electric vehicles and increase the running time of mobile devices. Results suggest that designs based on silicon nanowires could deliver 30-40% more electricity than today’s lithium-ion batteries.

  • Brain-computer Interfaces
  • The challenges here build on those of body-adapted wearable electronics to include biocompatible materials and thin film technologies to protect implanted electronics.

Barriers to technology translation
As well as announcing its top 10 emerging technologies for 2014, the council has also voiced its thoughts on major hurdles in the translation pipeline –

“Uninformed public opinion, outdated government and intergovernmental regulations, and inadequate existing funding models for research and development are the greatest challenges in effectively moving new technologies from the research lab to people’s lives.”
Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies.

Related stories on the web –

What’s the future for wearable technology? (forumblog.org)

Emerging technology as an agent for change (forumblog.org)

Trajectories in translation: parallels between old and new materials

Can looking at the commercialization history of mature materials such as Bakelite, Teflon and silicon carbide offer clues to the likely development timelines for today’s rising stars such as graphene, metal organic frameworks, and silver nanowires, to give just a few examples? Analyst firm Lux Research thinks so, and has released its results in a report dubbed “Planning for ripe fruit: Materials innovation lifecycles as a predictive scouting tool.”

In the study, Lux Research looked at the development trajectories of 49 materials by examining the gap from the first major jump in patent activity to the commercialization milestones that followed – a period that typically spanned anywhere from 10 to 25 years, but extended much further in some cases.

From the analysis, the team found that it could group the materials into a number of classes –

whether the material was single- or multi-functional,

whether the discovery was targeted or unplanned,

and whether it was an enhancing or platform technology.

“When we looked at the different materials in each class, we found parallels in the invention-to-commercialization pathways,” Anthony Vicari – one of the lead analysts on the study – told TMR+.

In principle, this means that once you know which category a new material falls into, you can identify some of the likely barriers to commercialization – a framework that could be a big help for start-ups when estimating development times.

“There’s often an unrealistic expectation in how quickly new materials will make it to the market, and this analysis offers a starting point for strategic decision making,” he said.

Different classes, different challenges
Let’s look at some of the development hurdles in more detail, starting with multifunctional materials.

“The big advantage of this class of materials is that they can potentially replace multiple parts, but this typically requires a high level of redesign and significant developer resources, which lengthens the commercialization time,” said Vicari.

“For enhancing materials, it is pretty clear from the beginning what the application is – the challenges here are focused on getting good performance at the right price,” he continued.

Platform technologies on the other hand can pose a deeper problem, as it can take time to figure out what the key applications are.

Vicari gives the example of silicon carbide (SiC). “There was an 80 year gap from demonstration to commercialization,” he points out.

Today, SiC is a key material in LED and power electronics sectors.

Looking at parallels between SiC and emerging materials, Vicari believes that metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), which were first reported in the 1950s, could be on a similar development timeframe. This would see non-niche commercial products launching around 2035.

Further reading on the web –

Metal-organic frameworks for energy storage (Royal Society of Chemistry)

National University of Singapore and BASF team up to develop the use of graphene in organic electronic devices

BASF has formed a partnership with National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Graphene Research Centre (GRC) to develop the use of graphene – a 2D form of carbon – in organic electronic devices, such as organic light emitting diodes (OLED). The goal of the collaboration is to interface graphene films with organic electronic materials to create more efficient and more flexible lighting devices.

“Graphene is a fascinating material, with regard to both its electronic properties and its mechanical strength. We have been engaged in the research of graphene for several years and are now ready to enter partnerships in order to complement and speed up our device development,” commented Josef Wünsch, Senior Vice President of Modeling & Formulation Research at BASF, who is also responsible at the firm for incubation in the area of graphene.

The NUS team at GRC will be responsible for the synthesis and characterisation of the graphene. The researchers have already developed a patent-pending methodology for the reliable growth and transfer of high-quality graphene films onto different flexible substrates that can be used in solar cells and lighting panels.

Translating advanced materials
As Wünsch mentioned, BASF has been exploring potential applications of the so-called “wonder material” for some time. In 2012, the chemicals company opened a Carbon Materials Innovation Center at its Ludwigshafen site in Germany. The center was set up in partnership with the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P), and the MPI-P and BASF have been jointly researching graphene since 2008.

MRS Fall 2013 highlights – part five (final)

Graphene goes 3D

Switching from the talks to the exhibit, I just wanted to highlight something that I spotted over at the Graphene Labs booth. The firm has announced a spin-off dubbed Graphene 3D Labs, which provides spools of graphene-loaded polymer for use in commercial 3D printers.

In fact, it’s hard to escape 3D printing at the moment. A new Makerbot store opened this week on the walk from my hotel to the convention centre here in Boston.

Further reading on TMR+

MRS Fall 2013 highlights – part four
MRS Fall 2013 highlights – part three
MRS Fall 2013 highlights – part two
MRS Fall 2013 highlights – part one

MRS Fall 2013 highlights – part two

My sketch of the roll-to-roll set-up proposed by the Mechanosynthesis group now based at MIT for high-throughput production of graphene.

My sketch of the roll-to-roll set-up proposed by the Mechanosynthesis group now based at MIT for high-throughput production of graphene.

A packed session on large-area graphene synthesis re-enforced the fact that there’s growing interest in making the material in amounts that push beyond lab-scale studies. On TMR+ this year, we’ve already featured a trio of commercial operations: Haydale in the UK, Graphene Nanochem, which has its production site in Malaysia, and – from the US – the University of Pennsylvania spin-out, Graphene Frontiers.

Graphene Frontiers has won a number of fans thanks to its roll-to-roll approach (see: roll-to-roll production could ramp up market opportunities for graphene), but they’re not the only ones exploring the concept.

A new twist on roll-to-roll production

Eric Polsen talked the audience through a concentric tube furnace design, which features an interesting twist on the roll-to-roll idea. Polsen is a member of the Mechanosynthesis group led by John Hart, who was previously at the University of Michigan and is now based at MIT.

As Polsen commented, roll-to-roll opens to the door to high-throughput production and has proven successful in delivering numerous materials, such as carbon fibre, in large quantities. He also acknowledged that they weren’t the first to look at how roll-to-roll techniques could be applied to graphene, citing studies by Hesjedal (2011) and Kobayashi (2013).

What does make the Mechanosynthesis team’s approach special though is the path that the copper foil (the substrate for CVD growth of graphene) takes from the feed spool through the tube furnance and into the collection chamber. The design features concentric tubes in which a carbon source (ethylene) is passed through the centre and the reducing agents (He/H2 are routed around the annulus. Wrapped around the inner tube is the copper tape, which can then travel through two distinct zones – first, an annealing zone, and then the growth zone, which is created as the carbon source enters through holes halfway along the inner tube.

Polsen explains that the tubular approach gives them much better control over vacuum conditions. The next step for the team is to ramp up the throughput via optimization of the synthesis recipe to acheive full coverage at speeds greater than 1 m/min.

Further reading on TMR+

MRS Fall 2013 highlights – part five (final)
MRS Fall 2013 highlights – part four
MRS Fall 2013 highlights – part three
MRS Fall 2013 highlights – part one

Graphene dispersion expert Haydale signs-up AMG as distributor

UK-based Haydale has signed-up AMG Mining as exclusive distributor of its graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs) in Germany.

The agreement gives graphite supplier AMG access to Haydale’s higher value graphenes for use in lubricants and batteries, to name just a couple of possible applications.

Haydale’s expertise is in providing well-dispersed, functionized graphene through its plasma processes.

“We bridge the gap between the raw material suppliers and the applications end,” Ray Gibbs, CEO of Haydale, told TMR+.

Over the summer, Haydale launched a range of speciality inks at the Graphene Commercialisation & Applications Summit in London, following an earlier announcement at the Printed Electronics USA conference in December 2012.

Formulated for screen-printing, the highly-conductive inks could enable smart packaging, or electrochemical sensors, for example.

In a recent company update, Haydale reports that it has provided graphene material to more than 100 research institutions worldwide, but as well as sowing seeds for future growth, the firm is keen to build revenue streams today.

For Haydale, this means teaming up with companies such as AMG to extend its supply network and show how GNPs can be applied to both new and existing products.