IDTechEx forecasts a USD100 Million Graphene market in 2018

IDTechEx forecasts a USD100 Million Graphene market in 2018

Market news |
By eeNews Europe

In its latest report on graphene, market research firm IDTechEx separates hype from reality using its detailed knowledge base. The company forecasts a $100 million market for graphene in 2018.

According to the market research firm, graphene is reaching the peak of its hype cycle: there has been the launch of prototypes and the first-generation of products; we have witnessed a mushrooming of start-up formations; and the industry has seen a flurry of seed and early-stage funding. The IP patenting activity has also been on the rise too.

Here, the focus is fast shifting from covering the manufacturing techniques towards protecting the formulation and the end uses of graphene. In the background, there has been an intense press full of praise and optimism.

Interestingly, IDTechEx also finds many emerging indications that this fledging industry is moving past the peak: several companies are already within the second or third round of financing; the second generation of products are being launched with more realistic assessment of the near- to medium-term market opportunity.

Figure 1: The hype cycle of graphene. Graphene is hyped but it is moving past the peak of inflated expectations. Source: IDTechEx


There are many different types of graphene, each offering a different set of properties. The differentiating parameters include the number of layers, purity, oxygen content, crystallinity and form (powder or sheet). Depending on the specifics of these parameters, the quality of the so-called graphene can vary, from that of the ideal material towards that of graphite oxide. Indeed, most companies today produce different types of graphene that can be placed somewhere on a quasi-empirical chart (see figure 2) in which the limiting cases are graphite, graphite oxide, graphene oxide and graphene. The take home message here is that each graphene will have different material properties therefore different target markets.

Figure 2: There many different graphene types and they can be categorised between the limiting cases of graphene oxide, graphene, graphite oxide and graphite. The properties will different depending on where the graphene sits within this space. Source: IDTechEx


Each graphene type is manufactured using a different technique and all techniques differ in terms of their cost structure, volume production capability and ultimately, potential target markets. The manufacturing techniques include micro-cleavage, chemical vapour deposition, liquid-phase exfoliation, oxidisation-reduction and plasma. We map the different manufacturing techniques on the basis of graphene quality, cost and scalability. “We can see that there is a trade-off between cost and scalability, on the one hand, and graphene quality, on the other. This implies that certain techniques will be better suited for high-volume applications with relaxed performance requirements, while others serve applications demanding high performance levels” explains the report’s author, Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, Technology Analyst at IDTechEx.

The main market driver so far has been the R&D sector. The industry is now gearing up to move beyond research activities and a diverse range of other applications are actively being developed. These include RFID, smart packaging, supercapacitors, composites, ITO replacement, sensors, logic and memory.

In many cases, the main go-to-market strategy for graphene would be replacing an existing component in an existing product. Depending on the target market, the incumbent or rival materials could be carbon black, carbon fibre, graphite, carbon nanotubes, silver nanowires, ITO, silver flakes, copper nanoparticles, aluminium, silicon, GaAs, ZnO, etc.

The strength of graphene’s value proposition is different for each target market. In many cases, graphene enables performance premiums, giving space for premium pricing. Cost will however remain critical. This is because ultimately graphene’s value proposition can often only be defined against the incumbent material option.

IDTechEx find that composites and energy storage applications will be the largest near-term market opportunity for graphene beyond R&D. The composite space is broad and diverse. IDTechEx also expect that graphene will first penetrate markets that have low cost sensitivity, but demand high performance. In the energy storage space, graphene will first be used in supercapacitor devices, mainly due to its high surface-to-volume ratio.

IDTechEx forecasts that graphene will have limited success in the transparent conductor market, because it falls short both on cost and performance compared to incumbent and alternative options. Market success will be limited in the transistor area, both in analogue and digital applications. This is partly due to a lack of bandgap and the high level of standards set by incumbent solutions.

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