Britain joins the graphene race but China sees itself in the lead
Not one, but two listed graphene companies on the London market. That will be the case if Applied Graphene Materials, a spin-out from Durham University, is successful in raising £10 million to float on the Alternative Investment Market, the board of the London Stock Exchange which caters for the more speculative stocks — or as AIM likes to put it, “the companies of tomorrow”.
This will be a real test of investor interest in graphene. The other company on AIM, Graphene Nanochem, which is attempting to specialise in low-cost production of the material, began trading through a reverse takeover of a Malaysian-owned biofuels company, Biofutures International.
Graphene Nanotech company last month showed the technological hill to climb when it revealed not only a loss in its first filing since listing, but the fact that sales of PlatDrill, the company’s graphene-enhanced product for oil drilling, would be delayed. However, is said it was close to rolling out the world’s “first bulk deployment of graphene-enhanced chemicals”.
The next be to be listed, AGM, indicated in a report in The Financial Times that it sees the main problem for the industry being that wider adoption of the material is being hampered by the inability to produce it cost-efficiently and at scale. It expects, however, the market for graphene to expand from 40 tonnes a year to 400 tonnes by 2017. (The Chinese have different expectations, as you will see below.) If it can raise the £10 million, AGM will have a market valuation of £25 million after existing shareholders are taken into account.
However, don’t expect a flood of graphene listings. For one thing, the market appetite is not there. That is not necessarily a judgement on graphene (although there is still limited understanding of it out there among investors) but a reflection of the state of equity markets. Yes, Wall Street and other markets have been surprisingly strong but this confidence has not seeped down to the more speculative end. In Australia, for example, mining floats have ground almost to a halt.
Also we have already had a surge in this field with investor interest in all the new graphite explorers that have come on to the market. It is unlikely that there will be a second wave of speculation (the souffle rising twice, as it were); in addition, there is so much technology metals news out there competing for attention and money, including lithium, rare earths, antimony, tungsten and (eventually) uranium.
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Then there’s the just issued by the Beijing-based ResearchInChina — yes, they use it as one word — titled Global and China Graphene Industry Report, 2012-2015.
The summary of this report says the global graphene market in 2012 was worth just $9 million. The biggest users were makers of semiconductor electronics, energy and composite materials.
But the future will be enormous. The report says the semiconductor industry could use as a much as $82 billion worth of graphene; the demand for semiconductor silicon is now 2,500 tonnes a year and the report assumes that one-tenth of the crystalline silicon now in use would be substituted by graphene.
“In addition, graphenes can be also used to make lithium ion battery anode materials, which can significantly improve the battery performance. Worldwide, the annual demand for anode materials surpasses 30,000 tonnes and keeps a growth rate of 20% or more. Provided graphenes are used to make anode materials that were used for one-tenth of lithium ion batteries, the demand will grow to over 3,000 tonnes,“ the report says.
And research is going ahead. The report notes that Chongqing Research Institute Chinese Academy of Sciences has succeeded in the preparation of 7-inch graphene flexible touch-screens by making use of graphene electrode; Sichuan Jinlu Group, in collaboration with Institute of Metal Research Chinese Academy of Sciences, has finished the pilot test of 1.5-tonne graphene production line.
Nanjing XFNano Material Tech produces several kilograms of graphenes daily, and its output of multilayer graphene hits 50kg/day; Morsh, taking advantage of the patent technologies possessed by Ningbo Institute of Materials Technology & Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, is expected to conduct trial production of its 300-tonne graphene production line project as of late 2013, according to ResearchInChina.
And just in case we miss the point,.the report underlines the importance of China having “the largest graphite reserves in the world”. They will not surrender the graphite (or graphene) crown willingly.
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