Graphene 2017: China’s graphene capacity on the rise

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Thursday, 27 April 2017

Improved production methods are driving costs down in China’s graphene sector, as local companies eye multiple end markets for potential new demand.

Graphene capacity in China is increasing while production costs are gradually declining, with new products due to reach the market in the coming months, according to the China Innovation Alliance of the Graphene Industry (CGIA).

Speaking to IM on the sidelines of the Graphene 2017 conference in Barcelona, Minyang Lu, deputy director of the CGIA, said that the domestic sector has expanded in the last few years, and now consists of about 30 graphene producing companies.

Total capacity in China today is put at 3,000 tpa graphene powder, according to the CGIA. Production, however, is currently only 200 tpa.

Most of current production is sold internally, while Lu conceded "only small quantities of very high quality material are exported".

Chinese producers mainly target the end markets of polymer composites, filtration and coatings. The focus is mostly on domestic customers.

"We are already selling composites such as rubber or plastics. We are currently selling [graphene-enhanced] tyres for prolonged durability and better performance," he said.

"More applications are entering the market this year," Lu stated. One such product is a filtration mask for factory or construction workers which is built with a graphene-based filter. Other products include new graphene-based composites for building materials.

At the same time, he claimed production costs are gradually decreasing as processes are improved.

The price ranges are still very wide. IM was told by the CGIA that these can vary – at the extreme – from 'a few’ Chinese renminbi (Rmb) per gram for the lowest-quality graphene, to Rmb 1,000/gram for the highest-end material.

"Prices depend on quality, and on the related costs required to further modify the graphene to adapt it to the customer’s product or process," said Lu.

As well as the above-mentioned markets, Chinese producing companies are eager to jump 
on the energy bandwagon and target energy storage applications including batteries, supercapacitors and related products, IM heard.

"Demand in the sector is growing, and companies want to move in that direction," Lu added.