Gregory Erickson, who is the Founder and Chief Operating Officer of General Graphene Corporation, discusses the current status of graphene technology and General Graphene’s pathway toward commercialization.
General Graphene was established in 2015 with the belief that demonstrating the feasibility of producing large quantities of high-quality CVD graphene sheets at a low cost would generate significant interest from industries seeking to develop various applications with CVD graphene. However, upon accomplishing the same goal with the successful launch of our proprietary CVD production system in 2021, we did not receive as much interest as we had anticipated. Although we did receive inquiries from some Fortune 500 companies and several smaller companies, we came to realize that we had not fully understood the intricacies involved in the demand for CVD graphene.
After learning about graphene and its exceptional characteristics, some straightforward inquiries come to mind:
• Given the validity of all the claims made about graphene, why aren’t more companies interested in using it?
• What hindered graphene from becoming the revolutionary material it was advertised to be?
General Graphene’s perception of graphene has significantly evolved following interactions and collaboration with executives from diverse industries in recent years. Although fascination with graphene has remained constant, apprehension towards risk has generally been greater. The typical viewpoint of several companies towards graphene can be condensed as follows:
• As long as their rivals do not have access to graphene, they can accept the same outcome.
• They view the obstacle of mass-producing graphene as a problem that someone else should resolve.
Nonetheless, once these barriers are surmounted, graphene assumes an entirely distinct character.
The Obstacles and Uncertainties Involved in Bringing Cvd Graphene to the Market
There are various risks associated with introducing CVD graphene to any particular market, including those related to production, technology, finance, and market demand. As with any novel material, there are many unknown factors surrounding graphene, which can be directly attributed to its sluggish adoption rate. Despite the potentially groundbreaking advantages of graphene, most industries are reluctant to be early adopters without a clear understanding of the integration process and associated costs. This reluctance is understandable and expected, but the inertia involved in introducing any new material presents a greater challenge for General Graphene than the technological achievement of our proprietary production system. Therefore, we have chosen to confront this challenge head-on, just like we did with the production challenge.
The first step towards commercializing graphene is education, as most customers are unaware of what graphene is or have misconceptions about it. This is even more relevant as 90% of our customers have never heard of graphene – and of the 10% who have, 90% associate it exclusively with graphene oxide (GO). It’s important to differentiate between graphene oxide (GO), which is a more common and better-known type of graphene, and monolayer CVD graphene. Technically, graphene oxide (GO) does not even qualify under the ISO’s definition of graphene – which is strictly limited to less than 10 atomic layers. While they are different materials, monolayer CVD graphene and graphene oxide GO) are often referred to interchangeably in the industry. Therefore, when introducing graphene to a new market, it’s essential to start with the basics and clarify any misconceptions about the material.
The Complexities of Developing CVD Graphene Applications: General Graphene’s Experience
General Graphene faced a harsh reality for most of its existence, as the company lacked the capacity to produce and test CVD graphene effectively for many specific applications. The company’s expectations regarding graphene were unrealistic and based on the hype surrounding it. This was a tough lesson for General Graphene, but the experience has made us wiser and better equipped to understand the reality of graphene and its potential.
General Graphene has spent the past few months developing technology for low-cost, mass production of graphene. While the company has intentionally been low-key in its approach, the global industry’s appetite for graphene will soon be determined when the industry starts to learn more about the potential of industrial-scale CVD graphene. However, the reality of graphene-based application development is that it is not an easy task and requires significant research and development efforts to optimize graphene’s properties for specific applications. Despite the challenges, General Graphene remains committed to the commercialization of graphene-based products and continues to invest in research and development to unlock the full potential of this material.
At first, General Graphene targeted industries with specific applications based on published findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals that highlighted the remarkable benefits of graphene for those applications. However, the company soon realized that laboratory results did not always translate into real-world results easily. Despite the material’s amazing properties, the hype surrounding graphene can be misleading and create unrealistic expectations that are difficult, if not impossible, to meet.
While graphene’s performance can be extraordinary when incorporated into an application correctly, figuring out how to do so is not an automatic process. Most industries have little to no experience working with atomic-scale materials, making the process of incorporating graphene into applications complex and challenging. Nevertheless, General Graphene remains committed to commercializing graphene-based products and is investing significant resources in research and development to optimize CVD graphene’s properties for specific applications.
While graphene may not be ready for some highly anticipated applications, there is a clear path to near-term commercialization for many others. One of the biggest impediments to realizing graphene-based applications has been cost, but General Graphene has significantly reduced or eliminated its impact. The challenge now is more practical in nature – integrating graphene seamlessly into existing production processes.
To overcome this challenge, General Graphene has decided to focus on applications in industries that have demonstrated a willingness to use CVD graphene. These industries have manageable integration difficulties associated with existing production processes. For instance, the company is targeting applications where graphene can be grown directly on a metallic substrate already commonly used in the application or where an attribute of graphene, such as its atomic thinness or sensitivity, is unavailable in any alternative materials. By targeting these applications, General Graphene is positioning itself for success and is making strides towards realizing the full potential of CVD graphene-based products.
Due to nondisclosure agreements, General Graphene is unable to disclose its current application development partners. However, the company is actively pursuing multiple projects in various sectors, including energy storage, consumer electronics, sensors, semiconductors, automotive, healthcare, and defense. By expanding its reach into these sectors, General Graphene is positioning itself as a key player in the graphene industry, and is working towards the development of groundbreaking applications that could revolutionize the way we live, work and interact with technology.
Is Finding Applications for Graphene Like Searching for a Needle in a Haystack, or More Like Finding a Needle in a Stack of Needles?
General Graphene has achieved a significant breakthrough in the production of CVD graphene films with the successful development and implementation of their GG 3.0 pilot production line. This state-of-the-art system allows the company to produce graphene films at an unprecedented scale and cost. To meet the technical and performance demands of specific applications, each application requires uniquely tailored graphene. The GG 3.0 system provides the capability to precisely tune graphene for specific applications, generating single or multilayer graphene in the form of large sheets or rolls up to 300mm wide, offering increased flexibility and customization.
Our technology signifies a significant advancement, as it enables cost-effective testing and R&D for a wide range of applications along with a pathway to scalability and commercialization. General Graphene’s aim is not limited to a single or narrow range of graphene-based applications, and we do not want to limit ourselves to being a one-trick pony. Graphene is a highly adaptable material, and our goal is to fully explore its versatility in our pursuit of commercialization.
General Graphene is optimistic about the potential of graphene-based applications and believes that the best or first CVD graphene application may be commercialized sooner than what most people in the scientific and industrial world think. We acknowledge that CVD graphene will be an enabling technology for such applications. With its versatility and broad application potential, we believe that finding CVD graphene applications is similar to finding a needle in a stack of needles rather than finding a needle in a haystack.