Consolidation starts in graphene manufacturers says analyst

Market news |
By Nick Flaherty

The graphene market is starting to see the signs of consolidation among manufacturers says analyst IDTechEx.

Dr Conor O’Brien at IDTechEx points to a deal last week with NanoXplore to purchase a significant portion of the assets of graphene pioneer XG Sciences, which ceased operations in July 2022.

Graphene is used in a range of applications, from sensors and thermal management to the next generation of high performance transistors.

As part of the deal, NanoXplore will acquire XG’s mechanical milling platform and research and development lab, alongside intellectual property, including all issued and pending patents and trademarks.

“XG has been a respected competitor of ours for years, and the integration of their assets will further support the growth of NanoXplore. This acquisition accelerates our participation in the battery material space and significantly increases our intellectual property related to graphene and graphene-enhanced battery materials,” said Soroush Nazarpour, president and CEO of NanoXplore.

XG Sciences was one of the earliest and most prominent graphene players, forming in 2006. They developed various exfoliation processes that produce a range of products, although typically with a thickness far greater than the ISO definition of a graphene nanoplatelet (GNP).

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This news shows not only the consolidation but also the challenges facing graphene manufacturers, many of whom have never been profitable and depend on public or private funding for their cash flow, says O’Brien. Non graphene related subsidiaries, adjacent business, or being part of a larger parent company can also help financially support and strategically position graphene players, but this may well send an industry-wide warning.

IDTechEx draws comparisons with other advanced nanocarbons, namely carbon black and carbon nanotubes. Carbon black has a long-established supply chain, with only a handful of major players, such as Cabot Corporation and Birla Carbon. With the consolidation of the number of suppliers, it is also noted that both material costs and profit margins reduced.

A major topic of conversation among companies and professionals within the graphene industry is the identification of the killer application for the material. Early penetration has been seen in areas such as thermal management materials, but this is a smaller addressable market than others that are being targeted. A parallel can be seen for multi-walled carbon nanotubes, a material that has seemingly found its killer application as a conductive additive battery cathode. This has seen several major players in the chemical and material sector enter the market either by building a facility or through M&A activity, such as LG Chem, who recently announced plans to build a fourth CNT manufacturing plant.

IDTechEx sees a similar trend for material suppliers within the graphene industry. Consolidation of major players is predicted to see more uniform and reliable products produced at a lower price point, enabling penetration to the market. On the other hand, material demand on the back of a breakthrough killer application could see major multinational chemical and material manufacturers to enter the industry.

This comes after the UK government blocked the sale of Welsh graphene maker Perpetuus Applied Materials on national security grounds on May 11.

Perpetuus was founded in 2013 and has developed products and services around the supply of graphene and carbon nanotubes and had been approached by Shanghai Kington Technologies.

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