Graphene a game-changer for Chinese electronics manufacturers
Electronics manufacturers on the mainland appear to be the front runners in the race to launch the first commercial applications using graphene, the thinnest, strongest and most conductive material known.
At a forum in Hong Kong yesterday, experts said those firms are now developing the initial batch of graphene-enhanced products expected to be released to market from next year.
Konstantin Novoselov, who created graphene in 2003 with Andre Geim at the University of Manchester in Britain, said these initial products would be advanced touch screens and lithium ion batteries used on smart mobile devices. The two scientists were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics for their work on graphene.
Graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon arranged in a honeycomb pattern. It is 200 times stronger than steel and one million times thinner than a human hair, and a single ounce could cover 28 football fields. It is also flexible and a better conductor than copper, making it a revolutionary material for a broad range of industries.
Ivan Buckley, the project manager for the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester, said: "Across the globe, we see more investments in graphene research involving lots of companies."
"China is the most active" in commercial development, Buckley said. The institute collaborates with companies around the world to support the commercial application of graphene.
Demand for graphene is being driven by sectors including aerospace, communications, solar, automotive, energy storage, paints, sensors, and oil and lubricants. The mainland is the global hub for many of those industries.
Lai Chung Ping, chief executive of Bluestone Global Tech, based in New York and currently the leading provider of high-quality, large-size graphene from its facilities in Fujian province, predicted: "Next year will be a time when graphene changes the appearance of smartphones."
Simon Leung, marketing president at Powerbooster Technologies in Shanghai, said his company would invest about US$10 million over the next two years to step up delivery of graphene applications to makers of smart mobile devices.
The firm is now supplying two million graphene-enhanced touch panels a month under a partnership with Bluestone.