The current market is modest in size; the global graphene industry was estimated to be worth around $150m in 2020. But massive and ground-breaking applications are being and will be developed. Growth towards a market size of $1bn is predicted for the next 5-10 years by many sources. This only considers graphene, too – with other 2D Materials included, the market size has the potential for even more impressive and rapid growth. Graphene, as well as many of the other 2D Materials, has been discovered by scientific investigation rather than being developed for a particular use. So right now, we are in a phase of experimentation and translation: form “R” to “D”. 2D Materials are being applied from toothpaste to aircraft. We are seeing the first jumps out of the laboratory into the real world, and the rate of transition is accelerating. Graphene in particular is gradually starting to make its mark, with more and more manufacturers recognising the advantages it can bring. It is now simply a question of which directions development takes and how their times to market vary.
For example there are novel graphene-based devices across a range of fields including photonics, optoelectronics, energy storage and conversion, flexible electronics, sensors, composites and coatings and biomedical applications. Its use in composite materials for the automotive and aerospace sectors is an early win, its advantages of lightness and strength providing clear economic gains for manufacturers. In these types of structural application, there will be fewer concerns about achieving optimum purity. Other areas in which we are starting to see faster uptake of graphene are fields such as anticorrosive paint or coatings, and energy storage.
On the other hand, in those applications where there is a premium on the material’s purity and consistency - such as high-end computing and high-frequency electronics – commercialisation may seem further away. Nevertheless we are already seeing new classes of materials, and new processes, which enable 2D Materials to be applied in such fields.
As 2D Materials become better known, and more and more investigations into theirs uses are conducted, it is clear that product supply has the potential to be a major sticking point. We shall see how well processing scale up can keep in pace with demand, so that there is no prohibitive cost associated with the use of these fascinating materials.