The impact of the production and characterisation of graphene
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Unit of AssessmentPhysics
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Physical Sciences: Condensed Matter Physics
Chemical Sciences: Inorganic Chemistry
Engineering: Materials Engineering
Summary of the impact
The isolation and characterisation of graphene by Geim and Novoselov
demonstrated its potential to underpin disruptive technological change
across an incredibly broad range of industries. This resulted in rapid
global uptake of new technologies in the REF period, with at least $200m
recent commercial investment in graphene production. Blue-chip companies
have also made significant investments leading to the generation of 7740
industrial patents. The first set of graphene-based products has reached
the market with revenues already exceeding $10m per month. This commercial
activity has been matched by global shifts in public research and
innovation funding of at least $2.4bn, as governments have moved to
facilitate graphene research and commercialisation.
Research on properties of thin materials was initiated in the UoA in
2001, and resulted in the discovery of a new class of materials —
free-standing two-dimensional crystals, including single layers of
graphite, boron nitride, several dichalcogenides and complex oxides — by
key researchers, Andre Geim (in post 1999 onwards) and Konstantin
Novoselov (in post 2001 onwards). Unexpectedly, these atomically thin
sheets (essentially gigantic 2D molecules unprotected from the immediate
environment) are stable under ambient conditions, exhibit high crystal
quality and are continuous on a macroscopic scale. The isolation and
characterisation of monolayers of graphite, an allotrope of carbon known
as graphene, have opened pathways for a range of applications. Amongst the
many research findings are the demonstrations of:
- The feasibility of working with atomically thin films, including metal
dichalcogenides, boron nitride and complex oxides and freestanding
graphene films [1,2], opening up countless possibilities for many new
applications and devices.
- The electric field effect in graphene films , showing that
transistor operation based on graphene is possible.
- The relativistic behaviour of charge carriers in graphene  and of a
new kind of Quantum Hall Effect , observations of fundamental
importance for science.
- The feasibility of graphene as electrodes in liquid crystal devices
, demonstrating further the practicality of the use of graphene in
- The observation of fast spin currents in graphene , showing that
potential for spintronics replacement of electronics for data processing
References to the research
The award of the Nobel prize in 2010 to Geim and Novoselov is a clear
indicator of the quality of the research. Indicative publications from
prestigious science journals include the following:
 "Electric field effect in atomically thin carbon films"
Novoselov K.S., et al. Science 306, 666, (2004) doi: 10.1126/science.1102896.
(11245 citations on Web of Science 20th Sept 13)
 "Two dimensional atomic crystals" Novoselov K.S., et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102, 10451 (2005)
 "Two-dimensional gas of massless Dirac fermions in graphene"
Novoselov K.S., et al., Nature 438, 197 (2005) doi: 10.1038/nature04233.
 "Unconventional quantum Hall effect and Berry's phase of 203c0 in
bilayer graphene" Novoselov K.S., et al. Nature Physics 2, 177 (2006) doi:
 "Graphene-based liquid crystal device" P. Blake, et al. Nano Letters
8, 1704 (2008) doi: 10.1021/nl080649i.
 "Giant Nonlocality Near the Dirac Point in Graphene", D. A. Abanin,
et al. Science 332, 328 (2011) doi: 10.1126/science.1199595.
Details of the impact
The production of graphene and subsequent characterisation of
extraordinary thermal, electron transport, mechanical and gas-barrier
properties, together with high specific surface area, led to the
realisation it could be used in potentially disruptive technologies. The
opportunities span an incredibly broad range of applications, including
printed electronics, new transistors, super capacitors, transparent
conductors, biomedical sensors, automotive batteries, and composites and
coatings with enhanced mechanical and electrical performance. Companies
have moved rapidly to exploit this potential, with significant investment
in both new and existing businesses, new jobs and the first graphene-based
products reaching the market. Alongside these economic impacts, there have
been significant public policy impacts, with substantial shifts globally
in science and innovation budgets.
It has been estimated [A] that by 2010, 210 companies globally had made
significant corporate investments in bringing graphene and graphene-based
products to market — 88 between 2008-10 in the US, Japan, Korea, Germany,
UK and China. This activity covers three broad sectors: graphene
production, graphene-based technologies, and graphene-based products.
Graphene Production: Demand for graphene has grown rapidly,
prompting investment in scaling up and reducing the cost of production.
Total graphene output in 2009 was 12 tons, rising to 155-205 tons in 2013
[B (ii)], with a market value of around $10 million. Over 55 companies
have entered the sector, with at least 24 formed since 2008. It was
estimated in 2011 that there was already $40M invested in small graphene
producers [B (iii)]. During the past two years there has been significant
investment in scaling up production. As examples: XG Sciences (revenues of
$4 million in 2012) have invested $10.5 million to scale-up production
from 3 tons to 80 tons pa with staff numbers increasing from 8 to 30
between 2010-12 [C]; Ningbo Morsh Technology have invested $30 million in
a 300 ton pa production line in Zheijian Province, China [D]; and Garmor
Inc have invested in a 100-ton pa facility in Orlando, with plans to
employ 80-100 employees over 5 years [E]. Although financial data is not
available for all 55 companies active in the field, these three alone
account for recent investments of around $50m, leading to a conservative
estimate of at least $200m invested in scaling-up production capacity.
Graphene-based Technologies: Several large multinational
companies are known to be active in developing graphene-based
technologies, including IBM, Samsung, BASF, Nokia, Sandisk, and Fujitsu
[B, F, G]. Although details of the financial investments involved are not
available, the scale of activity from these companies can be judged by the
volume of associated graphene-related patents. Between 2008-12 7740
patents were published, roughly half by the corporate sector [G].
Continuing investment is exemplified by the 33% growth in the patent
family portfolios of the top corporates in the field since 2010.
Graphene-based Products: Graphene-based products have begun
to reach the market, for example: HEAD graphene composite tennis racquets,
Vorbeck conductive inks, Powerbooster touchscreens, Ovation Polymers
ExTimaTM graphene/polymer masterbatch compounds, Bluestone Grat-PowerTM
SiGP graphene-enhanced anode materials, and Cabot LITX G700 graphene-based
battery additive. Although it can be difficult to obtain commercially
sensitive financial information on the investments needed to bring
products to market or the resulting sales, we provide three illustrative
- HEAD has an established reputation in hi-tech sports equipment. In
2012, they brought to market a range of graphene-reinforced-composite
racquets, exploiting the high specific bonding area characteristics of
graphene to achieve a significant advance in strength-to-weight ratio
[H]. This allowed the weight of the mid-section of the racquet to be
reduced, leading to significant improvements in handling. By late June
2013, the company reported they were on course to sell 200k graphene
racquets in 2013 [H]. Retailing for around $150, this equates to a sales
value of $30m, at least half of which is likely to have been in the REF
period. It is also noted that sales of graphene-based racquets are
displacing other racquets that the company markets [H].
- Shanghai-based Powerbooster, working with graphene producers,
Bluestone Global Tech, are manufacturing graphene-based touch screens.
In a June 2013 online interview with the Wall Street Journal, they
reported monthly sales of 2m screens, which translate to revenues of
roughly $10m per month [I].
- Vorbeck Materials introduced Vor-inkTM, graphene-based
conductive ink for printed electronics in 2009. With MeadWestvaco, a
global packaging company, they developed a printed anti-theft packaging
system that is now used by major US retailers including Home Depot and
CVS [J], generating annual revenues for Vorbeck of $1m-$2.4m [K]. To
meet customer demand for Vor-inkTM, Vorbeck invested in
real-estate and equipment in 2012 to increase their production capacity
to over 40 tons pa, with further investment in a new production facility
opening in late 2013 [L].
The isolation and characterisation of graphene also led to significant
shifts in science funding policy, with major public investments in
graphene research and commercialisation around the globe. A 2011 survey of
European funding for graphene-related R&D found significant funding in
26 countries, with major priority progammes in 7 [M]. In total, European
national funding in the period 2008-11 was €177m, compared to €2.5m before
2008, with the European Commission providing €87m over the same period. In
Jan 2013, the Commission announced a further €1000m investment over ten
years in a graphene Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship Initiative.
In the USA, the National Science Foundation awarded around $200m in the
period 2008-12 [N]. In Asia, South Korea is reported to be spending more
than $350m on graphene commercialisation initiatives [B(ii),O]; the
National University of Singapore invested $31M in a Graphene Research
Center in 2010, attracting $47M support from the National Research
Foundation a year later [P]; and China invested $81m in government funds
between 2002-2012, on a rapidly rising trajectory [Q]. Cumulatively, these
initiatives represent a seismic shift in public funding for science, with
at least $2.4bn committed to date.
Sources to corroborate the impact
(>10 sources are needed to cover the reach of the impact.)
[A] Philip Shapira, et al. J. Nanopart. Res. 14, 811 (2012). Estimates of
corporate entries in graphene.
[B] Reports of graphene market analyses: (i) The World Market for
Graphene, Future Markets Inc., Report No. 59, Sept 12. (ii) Graphene: The
Global Market, Future Markets Inc., Aug 13. (iii) Graphene: Analysis of
Technology, Markets and Players, IDTechEx Report Oct 12. Graphene
production estimates, lists of companies & news of production
[C] Article in Plastics News June 13. Information about XG Sciences
investments, production scaleup and job creation.
[D] Press Release May 13 by Ningbo Morsh. Information about Ningbo
Morsh investment and production scale up.
[E] Press Releases July 13 by Garmor Inc. Information about
production scale up and job creation.
[F] Graphene-Info web resource on graphene material technology. Further
lists of companiesinvolved in graphene technologies.
[G] Graphene: The Worldwide Patent Landscape in 2013, The Intellectual
Property Office, March 2013. Analysis of patent activity and further
lists of companies.
[H] Presentation by Ralf Schwenger, Director R&D Raquetsports, Head
Sport, at the Graphene Commercialisation And Applications Summit 2013. Information
on graphene racquet development, expected sales figures and displacement
of non-graphene racquet sales.
[I] Wall Street Journal interview 2013. Powerboost sales figures
[J] Gigaom article Feb 2013. Information on the use of graphene-based
inks in anti-theft packaging.
[K] Company information from www.manta.com.
Vorbeck annual revenues.
[L] Vorbeck Press Release 2012. Information on Vorbeck new production
[M] EC Report on Status of graphene research activities and planned
investments, Oct 2011 Information on EU and European national
[N] Jan Youtie, Seminar Talk, Manchester, Mar 2013. Information on
[O] IoP Physics World, Special Report, Republic of Korea Sept 2013 Information
on Korean government investments.
[P] NUS Press release. Information on Singaporean Government
[Q] Kexin Chen, Mater. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc. 1505, 185, (2013). Information
on Chinese Government investments.