Graphene is realising its promise as a miracle material. Graphene is being sprinkled into products “like pixie dust,” says Julia Attwood, an analyst for Bloomberg NEF.
“A few startups—and Fortune 500 companies—have realized that the material offers superlative performance as an additive to existing consumer staples, rather than as a stand-alone material that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per kilogram. Instead of a “miracle material,” graphene is being sprinkled into products “like pixie dust,” says Julia Attwood, an analyst for Bloomberg NEF.
Earlier this year, London-based sportswear brand Vollebak released a $695 jacket that capitalizes on the material’s incredible ability to retain heat. “Graphene’s an arms race between the U.S., Europe, and Asia,” says Steve Tidball, who founded the company with his twin brother, Nick. The production run of about 1,000 pieces sold out in less than three days.
Growth will be driven by much bigger players than niche sportswear startups. Although bendable tablets and fast-charging car batteries won’t arrive until at least a year, more incremental innovations are coming.
Huawei Technologies Co.’s Mate 20x series marks the first time graphene has been used in a smartphone. Mackenzie fly rods have integrated the material for a better bend in its fishing poles, while tennis gear manufacturer Head has released a line of graphene rackets for truer serves.
The fall collection of Prada SpA’s sporty Linea Rossa includes jackets that use nylon and graphene to help regulate body temperature. Ray-Ban is already using it in sunglasses.
That’s just the beginning, says Bamidele Ali, chief commercial officer of XG Sciences Inc., a Lansing, Mich., company that supplies the graphene found in noise-dampening products scheduled to appear under the hoods of Ford Mustangs and F-150 pickups in late 2018. “In 2016, we produced about two metric tons of graphene,” he says. “In 2017, we produced about 20 tons of graphene, and this year we’ll make over 100 tons. We could have scaled to a thousand.”
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