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Graphene - A Future Mainstream Material in the Plastic Industry

Prithvi Lalwani – Jun 22, 2018

TAGS:  Graphene / Graphene Oxides      Polymer Reinforcement    

Graphene - A Future Material in the Plastic Industry Graphene, the strongest material ever tested, is a nearly transparent and light-weighted material made of a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. It is a semi-metal with a small overlap between the valence and the conduction bands, i.e. it is a zero band gap material.

It is also known as a ‘Wonder Material’ due to its multitude of astonishing properties, such as:

  • High strength
  • Excellent electrical conduction, and
  • Light absorption

It exhibits large and nonlinear diamagnetism (even greater than that of graphite) and can be easily levitated by neodymium magnets.

Graphene in the plastics industry is gaining a lot of attention from last few years. Graphene can be easily mixed with plastics, lending its incredible intra-sheet strength to the plastic matrix and making the combined material much stronger. It not only improves the strength of the plastic matrix but also improves resistance to chemical or thermal degradation. These properties act as an inspiration to both the creation of new products and the improvement of existing ones.

Even though graphene showcases exceptional properties, it is susceptible to oxidative environments when used as a catalyst. Further, during fabrication of devices, graphene needs to be supported on a substrate which suppresses its thermal conductivity. In order to grow graphene, toxic chemicals are used at high temperatures, which cause a concern to the human safety in the industry.

So, to overcome these challenges, researchers are continuously working make future of graphene - a promising one!

Let's take a look at the R&D developments and trends going around contributing to the popularity of graphene...

Research Trends

With ~400 patents/published applications filed in the last 5 years, the use of graphene in the plastics industry has attracted a lot of attention of the researchers around the globe. The research in the domain has witnessed an upward trend with an average of ~ 63 patents/published applications filed every year.

Research Applications Published on Graphene
Research Applications Published on Graphene

NOTE: Filing data for 2017 and 2018 is not accurate as all patent applications which are filed are not yet published

The research in the domain has been conducted by various leading chemical players, such as:

  • BASF
  • Kaneka Corp.
  • Sumitomo Chemicals, as well as
  • The universities such as Rutgers University, University of Taiwan, and the University of Seoul

The domain has also witnessed various collaborations; most of them being between the companies and the universities. This is mainly due to the universities having the right set of capabilities and easy availability of technology platforms. The key researchers in the domain are:

Key Researchers of Graphene

The researchers have been researching various aspects of graphene such as composition, manufacturing, and integration processes. Few of the interesting recent trends in the industry are:

  • Use of graphene to form plastic tubes used in heat exchangers for various applications such as water desalination, power stations, refrigerating devices, and combustion engines. The tubes comprise of a graphite filler material, which is a mixture of graphite powders consisting of platelets, strands/fibers, and spherical particles.1

  • Graphite (various layers of graphene) is used in a house roof assembly, which comprises of a thermoplastic membrane having thermoplastic polyolefin sheet. Further, a fabric is arranged on expandable graphite. The thermoplastic and the fabric membranes are in the form of a composite. The usage of the composite material simplifies installation and saves in labor costs.2

  • Use of graphite in a flexible display device, which includes a display panel for displaying an image; and a flexible substrate on which the display panel is supported. The flexible substrate includes a plastic film having carbon and graphite material.3

  • Functionalized graphene nanoplatelets are used in a plain bearing shell of an IC engine. The plain bearing comprises a polymer-based composite layer arranged on a substrate. The composite layer includes a matrix of polymer-based material and functionalized graphene nanoplatelets.4

  • Graphite is used in a separator for a fuel cell. The separator comprises of three layers, i.e., a metal base layer, a plastic layer comprising conductive particles and a third layer comprising the plastic material which includes graphite particles. 5

  • View Several Graphite Fillers Available Today for Polymers »

Graphene – Key Drivers & Challenges

There are various drivers and challenges which affect the global graphene industry. Few of the key drivers and challenges are as follows:

S. No. Key Drivers Key Challenges
1. High demand for graphene:

The excellent features (superior electrical conductivity, light absorption, etc.) of graphene are few of the reasons for the increasing demand for the material. The material can also withstand high temperature which opens up its scope to be used in thermal management and consumer applications.
Complex manufacturing process:

The graphene-based products are much more superior to silicon and copper products. However, the complexity faced during the manufacturing and integration of graphene materials is hindering its adoption in the market.
2. Cost-effective Materials:

Carbon materials (graphite, graphene, etc.) are cheaper than the materials of silicon and copper. Thus, the need for low-cost raw materials is expected to lead to the high adoption of graphene.
High production cost:

Incapable technologies to support low-cost manufacturing of high-quality graphene on a large scale; this impacts the growth of graphene material.

3. Flexibility:

Graphene films and sheets are flexible when compared with silicon and copper products and by-products. Thus, the material can be used in displays, touchscreens, and photovoltaic cells which are flexible in nature.
High Competition:

The material is facing tough competition from vendors supplying silicon technology. The competitive environment is leading to a price war which affects the market sales and the customer base.
4. Strong Physical Characteristics:

When compared with copper and silicon, graphene exhibits high toughness and strength at the micro and nano level. It has the capability to withstand high temperatures and pressures. Moreover, it is light-weight and has high sensitivity.
Ecological Factors:

The conventional process for the synthesis of graphene involves the use of toxic chemicals. This leads in the hazardous waste generation and poisonous gases. Thus, an eco-friendly method for production of graphene is important.

Commercialization Trends

The use of graphene in the plastic industry appears to be in a nascent stage. High production cost, complex fabrication processes, and ecological safety concerns are few of the key reasons which act as hindrances for its full-fledged commercialization.

With players focusing their research to solve the major issues, the domain has started witnessing commercialization activity. There are various suppliers of commercial grades of graphene which are used in plastics formulations.

Few of the companies and their products are as follows:

S. No. Company Product Name
1. Avanzare Innovacion Tecnologica

  • av -40-1-2,5
  • av -PLAT-2
  • av -PLAT-7
  • av -GOX-40
  • av -PLAT-70
  • av -40-3-3,5
  • av -70-3-3,5
  • av -70-3-3,5
2. Applied Graphene Materials
  • Genable™6
  • A-GNP7
3. Graphene Nanochem GraphPol™8
4. NanoXplore GrapheneBlack™9
5. Graphenea Graphenea Graphene Oxide (GO)
6. The Graphene Box Reduced Graphene Oxide (rGO)10
7. Angstron Materials

  • N006-010-P
  • N008-100-P-10
  • N008-100-P-40
8. XG Sciences xGnP® Graphene Nanoplatelets - Grade H
9. XG Sciences xGnP® Graphene Nanoplatelets - Grade M

Further, there are various companies supplying plastic products comprising graphene. Such products are as follows: 

S. No. Applications Company Image
1. LED’s Graphene Lighting11 LED
2. Water Tanks Graphene Nano Innovations12 Water Tank


Graphene exhibits exceptional properties such as high electrical conductivity, light absorption, and enhanced physical characteristics. However, there are few technical and ecological barriers that hinder its successful adoption in the market. The increase in the research activity indicates an increasing interest of various researchers to overcome the hindrances making the future of graphene, promising!

Graphene/Graphene Oxide Additives for Polymers

View a wide range of graphene/graphene oxides available today, analyze technical data of each product, get technical assistance or request samples.

Game Changing Developments in Conducting Plastics & Additives

Talk to Dr. Donald Rosato where he will help identify where the true potential lies in the conductive polymers & additives (graphene, carbon nanotubes (CNTs)...) landscape and how it opens up new opportunities for you to make better R&D decisions.


  1. worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio
  2. worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio
  3. worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio
  4. worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio
  5. worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio
  6. www.appliedgraphenematerials.com
  7. www.appliedgraphenematerials.com
  8. http://www.graphenenanochem.com
  9. www.nanoxplore.ca
  10. www.thegraphenebox.com
  11. www.graphenestakeholders.org
  12. grapheneindia.com

1 Comments on "Graphene - A Future Mainstream Material in the Plastic Industry"
adrian o Jul 26, 2020
good day can it be used in thermoset plastics (polyester resin composite flat sheeting)for added toughness and strength thanks Adrian

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