Graphene, a material consisting of two-dimensional arrays of carbon atoms, is the thinnest material ever created, is hundreds of times stronger than steel, conducts electricity at room temperature better than any other known material, and can convert light at any wavelength into electrical current. Dozens of applications have been identified, from anti-icing coatings to aerospace coatings to solar cells to EMI shielding to desalinization membranes to electrical circuits and flexible displays and many, many others.
One of the most promising, earliest and potentially most profitable applications will be in lubricants. Having received little attention so far, graphene-based lubricants are poised to capture multi-billion dollar markets within the decade, with far less additional development than will be required for most of graphene’s other applications.
Graphene can be formulated as a solid lubricant by coating a surface with several layers, or as a fluid lubricant, whereby the graphene is added to a liquid base. Graphite, which contains graphene structures and in fact has been used as a source for graphene, is a well-established commercial lubricant. By converting graphite to graphene, the material’s lubricant properties can be greatly improved and more precisely controlled, making it suitable for a wide range of tasks.
Lubricants and lubricant additives in general are a large and growing market, an essential component in any industry that involves machinery and moving parts. To date, the major impediment to growth of graphene markets has been the price of graphene, as high as $4.50 per square centimeter in early 2014. However, graphene’s price is falling dramatically, and will likely go below $0.30 per square centimeter by the end of the decade. That reduction in cost will make graphene-based lubricants extremely attractive and competitive with more established lubricants, both solid and liquid. Even with the extremely low price of graphene in the near future, demand will be so great that annual revenues will be in the billions.
Thintri’s market alert on graphene-based lubricants analyzes the demand for lubricants in industry, the status of graphene development, and discusses applications and markets for graphene-based lubricants and lubricant additives with forecasts to 2020.