Since its discovery in 2004 by UK-based researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, researchers have been salivating at the possibilities of the unique material that is graphene.
The University of Manchester pair were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics for their efforts in 2010.
And ever since, no material has laid so much claim to so much potential.
But despite waves of hype and investor excitement, there’s been no significant commercial breakthroughs to date.
No killer application, so to speak.
The problem, in part, is the process of creating graphene in commercial quantities isn’t so easy. That’s the kryptonite holding back graphene’s potential.
As Les Johnson, author of Graphene: The superstrong, superthin and superversatile material that will revolutionize the world explained:
‘…the challenge is getting it in large quantities… there’s really lacking a good process like we have for sheets of plastic, which is a spray that dries and self-bonds. You don’t really have anything analogous for the graphene…’
Part of that is just the challenge of, how do you get something that is composed of only one element to basically bond with itself outside of some kind of extreme condition?
‘I don’t know the answer to that question, and whoever figures it out is going to make a lot of money.’
His co-author Joseph Meany thinks that once this problem is solved, it’s game on for the wonder material:
‘Once we crack production process we can control the size, there’s going to be no real stopping all of the really out-there application that we can think of for graphene to come along.’
Part of the new tech boom
The clear trends that are coming over the next few decades are in technology solutions.
A new generation of solar, electric, and battery technology is upon us.
Momentum in smartphone technology, computer processing power and artificial intelligence is creating new capabilities.
But also new problems for battery and chipmakers to solve. Problems that need new solutions and new materials.
Put this all together and you’ll see the opportunity to invest in crucial commodities.
Technology resources — resources that are needed to drive the connected machines of the future — could be the biggest winners in any future boom.
Certain resources stocks have already started moving.
Most notably, lithium stocks. As electric cars have started to hit the market and the Tesla hype has built up, the lithium market has exploded.
Consumer electronics and smartphone manufacturers are eyeing off the India opportunity. Another market of over a billion people.
One billion people who will drive demand in technology materials.
This economy will probably leapfrog the ‘poles and wires’ construction phase and go straight to the most high-tech solutions in energy, communications and manufacturing.
An investment in graphene could be part of all of this.
It has applications in nearly every industry, from new ones like batteries and renewables to established industries like microchips and construction.
Consider the markets it is set to disrupt.
Its conductivity makes it the ideal component in a range of battery and energy storage solutions.
That’s a US$24 billion market already, and will grow significantly in the future.
Its use as an additive to construction materials such as concrete is already a US$17 billion market.
The main benefit here is that it allows stronger, lighter building materials.
There’s even the potential to create snow-melting concrete. The unique electrical conductivity features of graphene could give roads the ability to clear themselves automatically in winter.
Graphene also acts as an anti-corrosive agent to steel, as well as a component of carbon fibre resins — another multi-trillion-dollar construction industry.
In fact, there’s no end to the possibilities of this lightweight, ultra-strong, extremely conductive material.
It could be the leading technology material in our lifetime.
Editor, Exponential Stock Investor