Graphene technologies are developing at the highest rates among all types of technologies and technical areas – more than 40% per year. The size of world market, according to experts estimates, will be:
2025 – $ 60 billion,
2035 – $ 360 billion,
2045 – up to 1 trillion dollars.
There is a great differentiation of research financing by region and industry:
Europe – more than $ 1 billion;
USA and Canada – about $ 1 billion;
India and China – about $ 300 million;
Russia – less than $ 1 million;
the rest of the world – about $ 50 million.
Though, because today the graphene market is just emerging, it is difficult to outline the actual rates of its growth and even its boundaries. Therefore, it should be noted that in different analyses, the specified data can differ markedly.
According to media reports estimates, today there are up to one and a half hundred graphene “factories” in the world, and the market price of the material is less than 1 euro per square centimeter. However, the cost of graphene is constantly dropping. According to the forecasts by Graphenea company, it will decrease 100 times by 2022.
Since large corporations are already beginning to actively use graphene, we can assume that it is already good distributed. More and more new graphene containing goods appear in stores, and once such goods will become the absolute majority.
Graphene should serve man everywhere! As already noted – add graphene to any material, and it will become more durable and more resistant to external influences. Tennis players Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic play with graphene rackets. At the Northwestern University of the USA, a super-resistant hair dye was developed on its basis. Specialists at New York University have found out that two layers of graphene can acquire diamond strength, which paves the way for the creation of a thin and invisible bulletproof body armor. This new material is called diamen. And Bill Gates has invested in a company that makes graphene condoms: these will definitely not tear.
Developers plan to mix graphene into cement when constructing buildings in earthquake-prone areas. The auto industry needs graphene to reduce the cost of the car body, and in the future, completely replace metal with plastic. This task is even more urgent for the aerospace industry, because the lighter an aircraft or rocket, the less fuel is consumed. The latest aircraft models – the american Boeing 787 and the russian MC-21 – are almost half composed of composite materials.
Energy industry is especially interested in graphene. One of the largest in the world Spanish oil company Repsol has invested in Graphenea: graphene needed for drilling fluids and pipeline coatings. In shipbuilding, it is already used for coating ship hulls.
Graphene film proves to be an excellent water filter because it passes water molecules through while retaining all others. Probably this will help reduce the cost of seawater desalination. Researches in University of Manchester developed graphene oxide screens for seawater filtration.
Researches in Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed technique that makes it possible to make holes of a certain diameter in graphene sheets and obtain ultrafine filters for a high degree of desalination and water purification.
In February 2018, specialists of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO, Australia) proposed a cheap way to inexpensively mass-produce suitable graphene sheets. According to CSIRO specialists, the developed technology will allow to abandon expensive and multi-stage methods of water purification and can lead to breakthrough in solving problem of drinking water shortage.
In medical research, graphene has shown anti-cancer properties. In particular, graphene oxide selectively targets cancer stem cells. It has been shown that infrared radiation, which graphene generates when heated, accelerates body cells regeneration, balances blood circulation and metabolism.
In smartwatches, graphene is used as transparent electrodes in touch screens, replacing expensive indium tin oxide. In the future screens of gadgets will become flexible – and here it will be useful that graphene can be mechanically stretched. Another class of gadgets that graphene should induce are ultra-sensitive cameras and sensors. Optical sensors based on graphene will expand the range of action by hundreds of times, providing visibility in bad weather and lack of lighting, and will also be able to “see objects through”.
Concrete modified with graphene additives is of great interest for the power industry (adding of modifier – aqueous graphene paste in an amount of about 0.1% to the cement mixture). Such concrete exhibits fantastic range of improved properties over standard concrete. In particular, it demonstrates:
Extraordinary improvement in concrete properties, including increased resistance to loads:
– increase in strength 90% to 146%;
– substantial (several times) reduction of time for hardening fresh concrete;
– substantial decrease (250% to 400%) of water permeability compared to standard concrete, which is an extremely desirable property for the long service life of concrete structures in water, and makes this new composite material ideal for building in places prone to flooding. Such a concrete has no competitors in the construction and repair of dams, the installation of foundations for power lines and for wind power plants. Use of graphene modifier allows to reduce the content of cement in concrete, and thus significantly reduces the price per cubic meter of concrete.
But biotechnology is the basic industry in which graphene innovations will be demanded. Today, there are already neurointerfaces which, for example, allow blindness to be cured by implanting an artificial retina into the eye. But so far, these are complex, massive, not very effective things. Graphene will allow them to be modified: the electrodes will become more precise, take up less space. First, the market for neuroprostheses will be filled, and then there will be cyborg people who connect their brains to a computer and record their thoughts. Once it seemed like a fantasy, but with the advent of graphene, the technological platform for the cyberpunk future, according to experts, is ready.
An article published in the magazine Oncotarget shows that the use of graphene has been beneficial in the fight against six different types of cancer.
Scientists have succeeded in forming ultraviolet radiation from surface of graphene. This could be useful for the production of completely new graphene based UV lamps without use of toxic mercury, which today still has to be used in such lamps to kill bacteria and viruses.
Scientists are conducting “upgrade” experiments on living organisms using graphene: spiders and silkworms, with this material mixed into their food, became stronger and began to weave a stronger thread.
The above examples give only a rough idea of the variety of graphene technologies and the degree of interest in them in the world.
Today graphene and technologies based on it are actively used in the aerospace sector, automotive industry, biomedicine and healthcare, electronics, energy, ecology and a number of other sectors of the economy. In other words, today it is already difficult to name such an area of knowledge, wherever technologies using graphene have penetrated.
It needs to be understood that graphene is not a technology. This is a material, and there can be thousands of technologies based on it.
Today in Russia graphene is underestimated. But let’s remember that in the 19th century aluminum was treated with skepticism, and today it is everywhere. And if we consider that in addition to graphene, hundreds of other two-dimensional materials will soon appear, then a whole new world opens up for us.
According to experts, the race of graphene technology today can be judged by scientific activity. In 2010, graphene was mentioned in 0.2% of publications, in 2016 – in 1% (for comparison: 0.8% of articles are devoted to the topic of semiconductors, 0.9% to gold; Web of Science data). If in 2010 the number of applications for patents on graphene theme did not exceed 6 thousand, then in 2016 there were 50 thousand, in 2019 their number has already exceeded 60 thousand (data from Scopus).
China leads to research on graphene, which owns more than half of publications and patent applications. In 2013 China Innovative Alliance of graphene industry was created, then the industry of new materials was made one of the priorities of 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). Beijing’s goal is to take over 80% global graphene industry.
Graphene enjoys state support in other countries as well. The European Union launched the Graphene Flagship project: investments in 2014-2020 are estimated at 1 billion euros. In british Manchester, where graphene was born, they decided to keep up: in the era of the industrial revolution city was considered the “cotton capital”, now the authorities are promoting the Graphene City brand. After spending £235 million from the UK government and getting support of UAE-based Masdar company, the National Graphene Institute was opened in London in 2015. And in Singapore, back in 2010, they invested $ 300 million in the creation of a local Center for two-dimensional materials.
Russia takes 14th place in the world by the number of graphene studies (data from Web of Science for 2014-2016). Moreover, their percentage in the number of scientific publications in the Russian Federation is falling: in the 2000s it was 5.6%, and now only 2.3%. In terms of the number of highly cited articles, all of Russia gives in to the Center for two-dimensional materials of Singapore alone. The situation with patents is also neglected.
The world race for leadership in production of graphene and materials with its additives started. But, unfortunately, Russia practically does not participate in this process. Either out of ignorance, or rather, a lack of understanding of the advantages of these technologies, or because of our inherent indifference to everything that happens outside today. Although, as it often happened in the past of development of science and technology, the founders of this unique material Andrey Geim and Konstantin Novoselov represent the Russian physics school. But they performed their scientific work which received the Nobel Prize, at the University of Manchester having already left their homeland. And Russia today is lagging behind in the development of this field.
It is to be stated that today Russia accounts only 0.003% sales of graphene components and products (100 times less than India or Israel). Although, according to some optimistic forecasts of experts, the need for graphene components in Russian market is estimated at about $165 million by 2025 and $1.5-2 billion by 2030. At the time, it should be noted that today, when the graphene market is just emerging, it is very difficult to outline its growth rates and even outline its boundaries.
Today in Russia, only a few dozen scientific laboratories are engaged in graphene topics. An even smaller number of research centers produce their own graphene, in very limited quantities (grams, tens of grams) and not always of a sufficiently high quality. The vast majority of domestic scientific developments use rather low-grade, but quite cheap graphene from China.
At the same time, it is not too late to launch a national graphene startup. If it is difficult to catch up with the leaders in microelectronics, then in the fields of interest for Russia – the aerospace industry and the defense industry – this is real. We can state that today the two-dimensional materials market in Russia is growing. And if in future we want to take a serious share in this market we literally have to count every month. Now Russia has to play the role of catch-up. However, we would like to believe that Russia still has a chance to jump on the bandwagon of a rapidly departing train named GRAPHENE, and, possibly, in a number of areas, even break into the leaders of this fundamentally new direction in science and technology.