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Graphene Uses:  Which Applications are set to see the First Graphene Products?

Dec 17, 2020 10:00:00 AM / by Sean Lightheart

Widely recognised as a wonder material, graphene’s unique set of properties are poised to revolutionise almost every facet of daily life. Regulation and consumer demands are driving the adoption of new materials across markets. But where are we likely to see the first graphene-enhanced products? Which markets are likely to capitalise from graphene-enhanced products?

 

In this article, we will explore where and what the likely markets and applications are set to benefit from the wonderous super-material.

 

What are the fields of application for pure graphene?

 

As with such an exciting and promising application, the number of graphene applications that have been proposed or demonstrated covers a plethora of fields. The most promising of which include; energy conversion and storage, sensors, electronics, photonics and photoelectronics, composites, biomedical and environment. The possibilities are truly endless.

 

Graphene exhibits a unique combination of mechanical, thermal, electronic and optical properties that provide opportunities for innovation in;

 

  • Flexible displays
  • Transistors
  • Photosensors
  • RFID tags
  • Solar cells
  • Secondary batteries
  • Fuel cells, supercapacitors
  • Conductive inks
  • EMI shielding
  • Heat insulation
  • Anti-oxidation
  • LEDs

These go across multiple industries including consumer electronics, automotive, aerospace, medicine, energy, 3D printing, polymer composites, wireless technology, filtration and coatings.

 

The current state of the graphene market

 

The current state of play in the global graphene market has a heavy focus on the supply of raw graphene materials, with the vast majority using graphene powder. Although whilst commercially scales are achievable, graphene powder suffers from the inherent deficiencies of a low-quality product that comprises multi-layer graphene flakes. For this reason, the use of graphene powder is restricted mainly to the production of coatings or composite materials such as inks. 

 

There are few high quality, device integration specialists due to the issues with the production of scalable and economically viable graphene, with most only able to fulfil the performance requirements in niche applications. Hence why a pure, high performing, reproducible and scalable graphene is required to fulfil the requirements of wider industrial applications.

 

The most appropriate applications for pure graphene

 

According to The Graphene Report 2020 published by Future Markets Inc, the main short to medium-term growth, lucrative, high-volume applications in graphene and 2D materials will be witnessed in sensors and desalination membranes. Other high-value applications are in organic electronics applications (OLED, displays and solar PV), semiconductors and biomedicine.

 

Blog table 1

 

How can the biosensor market capitalise on pure graphene’s super qualities?

 

Graphene is widely regarded as one of the most promising materials for ultra-sensitive gas, bio and chemical sensors, and is regarded in a class by itself for biosensors. The drive behind the improvement in the sensors market is focused on lowering costs, reducing weight, improving the design, minimising intrusion within their applications environment and most importantly, increasing sensitivity. That’s why the ability to increase performance and reduce the overall cost of the assay by removing the requirement for expensive optical readers, halving the number of expensive reagents required (such as antibodies) and enabling true amplification and label-free, real-time health monitoring at the point of need, will be a key step-change in human diagnostics.

 

There are significant growth opportunities driven by miniaturisation of sensors leading to the ease of integration. Graphene-based biosensors can enable fast, more intelligent, precise, less costly and more user-friendly biological detection.

 

Graphene’s porous qualities ideal for desalinisation membranes

 

There is a global need for effective, low-cost water filtration technology and, as such, there is a vast potential for graphene-based membranes, especially when utilising a pure form of graphene. Pure graphene exhibits key properties such as exceptional water permeability, high mechanical strength and large surface area, which allows graphene to filter salt from water at a rate that is 2-3 orders of magnitude faster than today’s best commercial desalination technology, reverse osmosis (RO).

 

The use of pure 3D graphene is preferable to say, graphene oxide, whose low permeance to fluids has hindered its application in filtration. Use of graphene-based filters in applications such as the concentration of beverages, treatment of crude oil/water mixtures, biofuel and industrial wastewater treatments where reverse osmosis is not suitable due to the fouling tendencies when concentrated liquids are purged through RO cartridges. Membranes containing functionalised or pristine graphene (i.e. pure 3D Graphene Foam) display excellent potential for selective uptake and transport of molecular or ionic species which are essential for processes such as water purification and desalination, sensing, and energy production.

 

Li-ion batteries for vehicles - pure graphene supercapacitor electrodes

 

The future of energy storage is dictating the demand for faster charging, high powered, environmentally friendly, smaller, lighter, longer-life and flexible solutions. A Graphene supercapacitor is said to store almost as much energy as some lithium-ion batteries, charge and discharge in seconds and maintain all this over hundreds of thousands of charging cycles. This makes graphene unrivalled in power, opening the ability for super-fast charging. The surface area is one of the limitations of capacitance and a higher surface area means better electrostatic charge storage. Graphene is often suggested as a replacement for activated carbon in supercapacitors, in part due to its high electrochemically active surface area (which is even more substantial than that of activated carbon).

 

Also, graphene-based supercapacitors will utilise its lightweight nature, elastic properties and mechanical strength. Higher quality graphene is preferred for these applications as the greater electrochemically active surface area allows for larger energy capacities; and the porosity of these materials, with pore diameters on the order of microns, allows for the rapid transport of the electrolyte through the material, enabling sheet thin supercapacitors. The development of electrode materials that maximise the energy density of supercapacitors when compared with performance against Li-Ion batteries on capacitive performance and stability will drive this transition. Presently there is a high demand for small, high powered capacitors that can be quickly recharged using a renewable energy source to generate a ‘Fit & Forget’ system. This is a system where technology continues to function with no maintenance or day-to-day input from the user.

 

How to access Graphene for your market application?

 

Integrated Graphene’s revolutionary pure 3D Graphene Foam, Gii, is the world’s highest quality electrodes on any surface, in seconds. Integrated Graphene’s patented design for manufacture process produces the world’s purest commercially viable 3D Graphene Foam that overcomes all existing barriers to launching pure Graphene augmented products.

 

We’re always looking for new partner projects to find out more about how to explore the benefits of our Gii - in any of the aforementioned applications, please get in touch with the team at Integrated Graphene today.

 

Tags: 3D Graphene Foam

Sean Lightheart

Written by Sean Lightheart

Sean Lightheart is the Marketing Manager for Integrated Graphene