Graphene output falls short of expectations in China

By Albert Li, Davide Ghilotti
Published: Thursday, 27 October 2016

Policy supports industry upgrades; only few producers able to operate; more shutdowns expected.

Graphene has failed to meet expectations of a global industrial technological revolution, delegates heard at China’s International Graphene Innovation Conference in Qingdao in late September.

Since its discovery in 2004, the Chinese government implemented a series of policies to encourage industry developments, which facilitated some technological achievements and attracted additional investment into the sector.

However, according to local Chinese news service Yicai, currently only a handful of companies can produce single layer graphene, with most others producing two or three-layer graphene, which technically cannot be classified as graphene.

Attendees at the event also emphasised that downstream applications should be key for graphene development, but most are still at the small-scale stage without significant market demand.

Unlike companies such as Samsung, IBM and Nokia, which have an international presence, Chinese graphene companies are mostly small and focussed on low end graphene products, with less investment and cheaper equipment needed for start-up.

Dongbao Zhang, president of Shenzhen Leaguer Angle Investment Management Co., told Yicai that of 100 graphene companies, only two or three with high end development may survive in the future. 

Xin Wang, Frost & Sullivan China, said that only two Chinese graphene companies are able to produce graphene products for the LED industry on a small scale. Others are mostly involved in research and in composite or touch screen applications rather than the high-end semiconductor field.

Morgan ups SiC in UK

British refractory and ceramics products producer Morgan Advanced Materials is increasing its output of silicon carbide (SiC) at its Stourport facility in the UK to meet higher European demand for seals and bearings.

Morgan has established a dedicated SiC production line for sintered and graphite loaded SiC as part of its seals and bearings division, which adds to the existing output of silicon carbide-based products the maker supplies.

"Whilst the usage of silicon carbide in refractories industry remains high, we are seeing rising opportunities for this material in rapid growing markets, such as in high energy efficient applications or in extreme environments," Morgan told IM.

Seals and bearings are one of several divisions of Morgan, whose leading businesses include thermal and technical ceramics, speciality graphite and refractory products.

Sintered and graphite loaded SiC is mainly used in mechanical seals and radial bearings for water pumps, serving domestic and industrial applications. The producer has manufacturing sites in the US, UK and China for producing silicon carbide seals and bearings for global supply, it told IM.

The company sees demand for SiC increasing in these sectors, due to what it describes as the "technical and cost benefits this ceramic grade can provide over other materials such as tungsten carbide and alumina".

Chris Paine, business development manager at Morgan Advanced Materials, said in a statement: "We are continuing to invest in our facility and our research and development to ensure we can continue to provide solutions to meet the engineering problems faced by customers."