Graphene’s unique properties make it one of the world’s most exciting materials, and it is hard to think of an industry that would not be impacted. According to MarketsandMarkets, a market research company, the global graphene
market is expected to reach $ 278.47 million by 2020, with a growth rate of 42.8 percent from 2015 to 2020.
North America is the largest growing market for graphene, holding about 40 percent in the global market. In 2015, the graphene
market in China exceeded RMB 500 million, accounting for about 25 percent of the global market. Consultants predict that this could grow at a compound annual rate of over 90 percent in the 2016-2020 period.
Rapid rise in number of graphene
patent applications reflects the global fascination with this material. As of September 2016, there were more than 50,000 patents worldwide on graphene
and its applications. It is a global race, indeed. China contributed nearly half of them, more than any other country. United States took second place, followed by South Korea and Japan. The growth seen in North America is mainly due to the extensive patent activities adopted by major established players along with various cross-industry collaborations for the development of graphene
and its potential applications.
is a one atom thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice. This special atomic arrangement gives it unique properties. Not only, it is the strongest and lightest known material, graphene
is also flexible, impermeable and extremely electrically and thermally conductive.
Interest in this material has exploded since 2010, when Dr Geim and his colleague Konstantin Novoselov, two researchers at the University of Manchester, won a Nobel Prize in Physics for isolating it. Their Nobel Prize citation reads: "For groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene". Since then, corporate and academics have been rushing to patent a broad range of application uses.
is flexible and very strong, and (in one aspect) tougher than diamond and stronger than steel. Its lightweight strength helps create the next generation of composites. Carbon fiber tennis rackets are made using a small amount of graphene.
It is also being incorporated into the structure of a car, reducing the weight of vehicles, and cutting down both fuel consumption and resulting emissions.
Batteries and solar
is transparent, 97 percent of light passes through it. It is also an excellent conductor, carrying heat and electricity more efficiently than gold or copper. By incorporating graphene
into batteries, their energy density could be increased tenfold, enabling mobile phones to last longer without recharging, and electric cars to outperform gasoline vehicles. Both large global companies and small start-ups are racing to bring graphene
boosted battery to market.
Electronics and computers
When a magnetic field is applied to a graphene
ribbon, it alters the resistance of current flowing through it. This has big implications for electronics. Graphene
transistors could lead to computers that are 1,000 times faster, outperforming today’s silicon ones. And speed is not the only benefit that can be gained from using graphene.
Because silicon-based transistors have also reached their limit in terms of size, device makers can continue to shrink down devices further and packing in more functionalities.
is impermeable to gases and liquids, but graphene
oxide is permeable to water only. Therefore, it could be used for desalination, or the removal of harmful radioactive isotopes. At only an atom thick, there is far less friction loss when seawater is pushed through a perforated graphene
filter as compared to the traditional polyamide plastic filters. A graphene
oxide sieve may provide a cheap and energy efficient way of producing fresh drinking water from sea water.
Bio-sensing and detection
surface area and conductivity make them suitable for the design of bio-sensors, which are critical components of medical diagnostics and drug discovery process. Bio-sensing is a growing field, with many medical applications that come to mind. Graphene
oxide binds to the protein-like structure of specific toxins to produce an enhanced signal that enables hyper-sensitive sensors that detect toxins at levels of about 10 times lower than conventional sensors.
Dr Mosongo Moukwa is director of technology at PolyOne, USA, and was recently an independent consultant based in Chapel Hill, USA, and vice president - technology at Asian Paints Ltd, Mumbai, India. He is a member of the American Chemical Society and Product Development Management Association.
Opinions expressed here by the author are his own and do not represent the views of the company