Costs and industry confusion are some of the main hurdles
preventing the adoption of graphene by the wider market and
large-scale commercialisation of the material, delegates heard
at the Graphene 2017 conference in Barcelona, Spain, in
Potential end users of graphene have been bamboozled by the
industry’s lack of clarity and standardisation,
and its inability to reach out to end markets in a coherent
way, according to Marco Monti, head of Consorzio Proplast, an
Italian-based consortium of companies active in the field of
polymer and composite materials.
"Despite a few cases of usage of graphene as added-value
component – think of bike helmets or tennis rackets
– something is still missing to see large scale
production of plastic components made of graphene
nanocomposites," Monti told the audience in Barcelona.
He described the current phase in graphene as "the valley of
death" – a period that follows an initial hype in
interest for the material, but which does not lead to real
"The business opportunities are there," he said, citing
specifically the field of plastic materials and composites.
The global thermally conductive plastics market had a total
worth of $388.5m in 2015, according to data from Proplast, and
it is forecast to grow at a 14% CAGR to 2020, mainly on the
back of higher demand for these materials as lightweight
Electrically conductive plastics is "even bigger", Monti
said. The market generated $2.2bn in 2012 globally and is
expected to grow at an annual 6% CAGR rate through 2017.
Still, graphene has not achieved the sufficient market
penetration to benefit from these growth trends.
Monti identified costs and processing as some of the main
challenges that prevent adoption on a large scale.
On costs, he said: "Plastic formulations need to guarantee
the highest performance to cost ratio. Plastic users think 'the
cheaper the better’ – costs have to come
down to a level closer to what materials producer will
"Cost should be reduced, since the plastics industry is not
comfortable in using expensive materials," he added.
The lack of a structured, reliable supply chain does not
Industrial customers want to have a clear understanding of
the real capability of graphene producers to ensure stability
of supply, consistency and volumes.
On a communication aspect, marketability of graphene has
been slowed down by the widespread lack of clarity around
product types, standards and properties.
Low standardisation among processes and products is another
aspect of this issue.
This view was shared by Simone Ligi, of Italian graphene
manufacturer GNext, who said: "It’s important to
produce graphene that can be used in existing coatings
equipment. If [the material] needs tailor-made equipment,
it’s going to be a problem."
A delegate from a large international company active in
maritime, aerospace and defence, told IM:
"There is still some way to go before moving to actual
incorporation of the [graphene] material into our product
He added that the regulatory aspect is a main hurdle to
"This process can take years," the delegate told