Monday, June 25, 2018
Publication Date: 10/1/2011
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Graphene Overtaking Carbon Nanotubes

Cambridge, MA — Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs) have not yet met commercial expectations from a decade ago, and now hot on their heels is graphene. Graphene is considered a hot candidate for applications such as computers, displays, photovoltaics, and flexible electronics. IDTechEx market forecasts indicate that CNT and graphene transistors may be commercially available in volume from 2015 onwards, according to the new report "Carbon Nanotubes and Graphene for Electronics Applications 2011-2021". According to IDTechEx, the biggest opportunity for both materials is in printed and potentially printed electronics, where the value of these devices that partly incorporate these materials will reach over $44 billion in 2021.

In a comparably short time a large amount of graphene materials have become commercially available contributing to further advancements and application development. At a fraction of the weight and cost of CNTs, graphene may displace carbon nanotubes and even Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) in some applications.

Displays and PVS
Flexible, see-through displays may be the one application that finally puts graphene into the commercial spotlight. Combined with other flexible, transparent electronic components being developed at Rice University and elsewhere, the breakthrough could lead to computers and solar cells that wrap around just about anything. IDTechEx predicts a market volume of over $25 billion in 2021 for OLED displays and PV alone, some of which will use graphene.

Graphene and its compounds are increasingly used to make transistors that show extremely good performance — progress that comes with new cheaper production processes for the raw material. Transistors on the basis of graphene are considered to be potential successors for the some silicon components currently in use. Due to the fact that an electron can move faster through graphene than through silicon, the material shows potential to enable much faster computing.

Promise for CNTs
On the other hand, carbon nanotubes are still a strong focus of research. They too are used for making transistors and are applied as conductive layers for the rapidly growing touch screen market. Still considered a viable replacement for ITO transparent conductors in some applications, CNTs are not out of the game yet. While the cost of carbon nanotubes was once prohibitive, it has been coming down in recent years as chemical companies build up manufacturing capacity.

However, there are still hurdles to overcome on both sides. For carbon nanotubes these are especially related to the separation issue and consistent growth. Without the latter, carbon nanotubes will probably never be used for high-volume electronic applications. Graphene, on the other hand, lacks the ability to act as a switch because it has no band gap. However, recent activities of several academic institutions show promise that this restraining issue will soon be solved.

Printed Electronics Market
Nevertheless, a very important result from both sides for the printed electronics market are printable CNT inks and graphene-based inks that are beginning to hit the market.

Contact: IDTechEx, 617-577-7890 Web:

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