It’s been 15 years since two researchers at the University of Manchester discovered a new type of wonder material.
Stronger than steel, yet only one atom thick.
Great for conducting electricity.
It’s the ‘superman’ of the materials world.
I’m talking of course about graphene. You might’ve heard of it? In fact, you probably have.
Because since its discovery in 2004 there’s been no end of hype for graphene. Scientists have found potential uses for it in almost every aspect of life!
But commercially speaking, there’s been crickets. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
Graphene has hardly made a dent into any of the many industries it was supposedly going to revolutionise.
No ultralight aircraft. No phones that can wrap around your arm. And no graphene ‘smart carriers’ to deliver drugs into your body better.
So why the hold up?
Well, there’s been one problem that has been the bottleneck for progress. But that could be about to change…
Graphene’s Biggest Roadblock
Today, graphene’s real-life uses are confined to mixing it with products like rubbers and plastics.
Graphene acts as an enhancer to existing materials. Adding strength, versatility or conductivity. But so far these products only use tiny amounts of graphene.
That’s because creating graphene in a form that is useable on a larger scale is actually very hard.
Scientist and author of Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World, Joseph Meany, explains:
‘It’s being used to enhance and to change the properties of the other materials. The production problem lies in making very large sheets of graphene, say those that you would be able to pick up and look at with our own eyes.’
He adds importantly:
‘My opinion is that once we can control the graphene production process so that we can make a centimetre square flake of graphene, it might as well be a hundred meters or a thousand meters squared. 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.’
After 25 years of research into graphene’s beneficial effects on anything and everything, it seems that making it in a large enough form for useful production is the final roadblock to overcome.
Once that happens, we could see the most exciting materials revolution since the invention of steel.
And one ASX-listed company is making huge leaps in just that thing…
Could this be the tipping point?
Small-cap, ASX-listed company First Graphene Ltd [ASX:FGR] kicked off production of graphene at its new plant in Western Australia earlier this year.
The company — valued at $129 million today — announced in February that their new facility would able to provide bulk graphene to the industry.
‘This commissioning of the commercial graphene facility is a significant milestone for First Graphene as it progresses towards being a world leader in the production of high-quality graphene.’
The stock market likes what it’s seeing so far…
The share price has been on the up all year, rising from a low of 13 cents in February to a current price of around 29 cents.
They’re far from the only ones in this race though…
American company, GrapheneCA, announced earlier this year that they were increasing their own production capacity tenfold to meet increasing demand.
Dr Sergey Voskresensky, head of R&D for the company, stated:
‘The new technology lets us preserve graphene, ship it with high efficiency and then dispense it on location — in production ready pristine condition — in significant quantities on demand.’
This much is clear…
Graphene Opportunity About to Boom
To me the graphene opportunity seems a bit like a coiled spring.
Ready to explode when the production capability catches up to the potential uses.
There’s a tonne of research that indicate the hype is real. It’s not a fad or a white elephant.
It’s real. And in 10 years from now, it could be everywhere.
I envision a world where electric vehicle batteries contain crucial graphene electrodes.
A world where roads have an electrical charge sent through graphene enhanced concrete to melt the snow at winter.
And a world where windows on skyscrapers covert sunshine into electricity to power the building using graphene-laced compounds.
There’s even researchers in England working on lightweight graphene sneakers for professional runners!
With large scale production finally in sight, I think the tipping point for graphene could be just around the corner.
Watch this space carefully I say.
And next time graphene stocks start to boom, be ready to believe the hype fast…
Editor, Money Morning
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