Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Glamor of Graphene

In 2002, a professor and his associate wielding the most sophisticated of research methods  -  a bit of scotch tape and a microscope  -  were able to isolate the first two-dimensional material ever known to man.  It was a layer of carbon just one atom thick.  It took two years to convince editors at Science magazine it was an accomplishment worth telling the world.  In October 2004, their paper “Electric Field Effect in Atomically Thin Carbon Films” rocked the world, and set the professor on a fast track to win the Nobel Prize.

Physicists had theorized such a feat could be accomplished and had already named the carbon material ‘graphene.’  However, they had also concluded it would require some sort of heat process.  Here it was at room temperature.  Researchers around the world stocked up on scotch tape and began their own experiments.  Graphene was beguiling.  It is the strongest material on earth  -  as much as 150% stronger than steel.  Yet it is as pliable as rubber and can be stretched to 120% of its original length.  What really gets product developers excited is how graphene can conduct electricity.  Graphene also exhibits high ‘mobility,’ which is a measure of how fast electrical charges flow across the particles.  Graphene is 250% more ‘mobile’ than silicon.

Thirteen years later graphene is the subject of thousands of patent applications in the U.S. alone as researchers and product developers search for ways to use this 'wonder' material.   Product developers let their creative talents run unfettered, finding uses for graphene for everything from electronic circuits to tennis rackets to ink. Yet, manufacturers are troubled by a critical hurdle  -  production of sufficient grapheme supplies at an economical price.  There are a few thousand more patents related to graphene production processes. 

Investors have been as enthralled by graphene as scientists and product developers.  In the next post we check in on a few companies  -  both public and private  -  that are attempting to make a business out of graphene materials and products.  A website called Graphene Tracker lists eighteen companies that have received patent awards from the U.S. Patent Office.  This is a good place for investors to start.

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein.

No comments: