Is this the year of rapid graphene sales? Are we slipping deeper into a disillusionment phase? Who will emerge as the market leaders? Is consolidation inevitable? 2023 will be a telling year for the industry.
IDTechEx has provided the most comprehensive independent market report on graphene and other 2D materials for more than 10 years. An overview of the commercial activity for nanocarbons in 2022 was provided in this article; here, we look at what to watch out for in 2023.
2023 will present a fascinating year for the graphene industry. IDTechEx expect some great successes as key orders arrive, but this will not be the case for all manufacturers, and a challenging year ahead looms for some as a result. With the collapse of XG Sciences in 2022, there is blood in the water. In the long run, this will not be the only casualty of legacy graphene manufacturers, many of whom have over a decade of operation. IDTechEx has for many years stated the inevitable consolidation of the graphene industry; just look at equivalent mature markets. Even as we start 2023, the future of one such longstanding companies, Applied Graphene Materials, looks uncertain. Success is anything but guaranteed and highly dependent on a company's cash position; for many, it is time to turn the promise of graphene into revenue.
Entering 2023, capacity comfortably outstrips demand. However, this will not stop more facilities being announced and coming online. Graphene is a broader material family than many appreciate. Those planning expansions may feel their material can offer something alternative or that they hold other competitive advantages through their process, partnerships, geographic location, or upstream & downstream integration. There will be clear graphene market leaders in the future, but who they are today is less clear. We have begun to see some players progress beyond their peers, but the race is still at the early stage. The leading unbiased report from IDTechEx provides a comprehensive appraisal of the key graphene companies.
The question many have is, where will the successes be seen? The potential applications for GNPs, GO, and rGO are extensive, from industrial coatings to consumer headphones. Certainly, there will be an ever-increasing role for graphene in thermal management applications and more notable orders to come for its multifunctional role as a polymer additive. Do not be surprised to see more commercial activity related to graphene textiles and membranes; two areas that have been on the rise in recent years and with a strong early commercial potential.
Sustainability and decarbonization will remain key market drivers in every sector and prepare to see more from graphene players promoting their credentials and capabilities in this space. These will be drivers for many of those applications stated above (such as polymers and membranes), but also for two applications with a large market potential: energy storage and concrete. 2023 has immediately started with such announcements, including the debut at CES of Project Arrow's EV prototype using VoltaXplore's graphene-enabled batteries. Concrete was the epicenter for graphene hype in 2022 with lots of demonstrations and partnerships; expect to see more of these announcements rather than high-volume orders throughout 2023. January has already provided a clear indication of this, with Nationwide Engineering raising £8m in seed funding and First Graphene entering a JDA with Suvo Strategic Minerals.
These successes will be good news for the industry, but IDTechEx do not expect them to be as large as many hope. Patience will be critical, but there may be a question if it will be granted from those providing the necessary investment.
So far, this article has only focussed on graphene and graphene oxide as a powder or flake. The other area is a bottom-up approach to graphene growth, predominantly producing graphene wafers or transparent films. The key area here in 2023 to keep an eye out for will be in sensor; this is evident through the likes of Cardea Bio targeting the production of their millionth biosensor in the upcoming year. The potential revolutionary applications for graphene in the electronics space remain at an early stage, but with a sustained research funding, prepare to see more publications shedding new light on this field.
Beyond graphene, the broader 2D material family will still predominantly remain in the academic domain. TMDs and BN have started their commercial journey but will remain largely under the radar as more exploration is required. Most of the developments will be in electronic applications but do not overlook other areas, such as in filtration, which has already started in 2023 with news of a seed funding round for Molymem and their MoS2 membrane technology. An exception may be in MXenes, which may gather some headlines as they take some of their first commercial steps and gain interest in applications ranging from supercapacitors to EMI shielding.
Meanwhile, Keep a Close Eye on the Carbon Nanotube Market
As has been discussed extensively by IDTechEx, multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) have found their killer application as a conductive additive in the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries. Given the booming demand, policy implications, huge investments, and supply chain evolutions for LiBs, the impact on MWCNTs will be significant. Leading manufacturers and manufacturing sites are predominantly in China and Korea, which will continue to grow with key expansions already planned. In 2023, it will be of note to see (a) what happens in Europe and North America, (b) if other applications emerge given the greater supply and price reductions, and (c) the impact of next-generation battery technology and market trends.
As for SWCNTs, prepare for a more uncertain year ahead. The research field will certainly continue and likely accelerate in critical fields such as advanced semiconductors and quantum computing. However, the question of high-volume commercial adoption will likely remain further afield. In 2023 it will be 2-year since the largest manufacturer, OCSiAl, announced new funding and a valuation of US$2 billion. In 2022 the company got the green light to build their Luxembourg facility (not due until 2025), but given the geopolitical situation, they also announced a new facility in Serbia, aiming to be online in the first half of 2023; the main current facility (and overall worldwide capacity) is in Russia. The main play for OCSiAl is again in batteries (including for silicon anodes), but even if high-volume success is to be seen, it will not be anytime soon. Hybrid products, high-aspect-ratio tubes, DWCNT/TWCNT, and nanotubes in other form factors will continue to climb the technology readiness level scales in a range of applications.
For more information on the nanocarbon industry, see the IDTechEx reports on the topics: "Graphene Market & 2D Materials Assessment 2023-2033" and "Carbon Nanotubes 2022-2032: Market, Technology, Players".