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Graphene: Worth the Hype?

Analysts have dubbed graphene a “wonder material” for its intriguing properties: stronger than steel, harder than diamond, thinner than paper, more conductive than copper, transparent, and flexible. Last year, 10,000 research papers were published about the material and there are thousands of patents, with Samsung owning the majority. IBM IBM and Xerox XRX have smaller patent portfolios as well. It is estimated that over $1 billion is invested globally in graphene each year. 1 Meanwhile, the market size is a mere $9-15 million due to limited commercial applications. 2

Graphene is most notably used in tennis rackets, although the amount actually involved is kept secret. Also, the added properties graphene gives rackets are questionable, so this potential market appears to merely be a marketing gimmick. 3

In most cases, the super material is limited by the difficult and expensive manufacturing processes required to harvest it. Graphene is cumbersome to manipulate and difficult to produce in large quantities of high quality. Researchers also question the health and environmental effects of both graphene and its manufacturing processes. Still, companies like CVD Equipment Corporation CVV continue to invest, and it seems everyday a new group of researchers discovers a new production method or additional applications for the material. Analysts forecast the future market size to be anywhere from $400 million to over $1 billion in the next decade. 4

Is it all just hype? A few decades ago buckyballs 5 were all the rage with researchers, only to find no major commercial applications. Graphene could be on the same doomed path, but it is too early to dismiss the material. Silicon was discovered in 1824, but was not used in commercial transistors until the 1950s. 6 Graphene may still be decades away from proving itself as a viable commercial product.

  1. Information taken from FT.com
  2. Information taken from Lux Research and PRWEB
  3. HEAD claims that graphene allows for better weight distribution in the racket near the head and the grip, although many other tennis rackets already have a similar weight distribution without the material.
  4. Information taken from IDTechEx, bccResearch
  5. Buckyballs, or buckminsterfullerene, C60, originally showed promise for solar power, ultra-thin electronic displays and slow-release drugs. They have yet to form a commercial market. Read more here.
  6. Information taken from livescience.com, Texas Instruments


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