Graphene, with its many phenomenal properties, is often said to be the new silicon, and has even been termed the “miracle material” by many. Those that face the task of handling the material in a laboratory know, however, that many technological (and economic) challenges need to be solved before graphene makes it to the market, at least in its purest form, which bears many of the “miraculous” properties.
About six months ago, I heard Jani Kivioja, Nokia’s lead graphene researcher, state that we have not yet reached the peak of the graphene hype curve. The hype curve, or hype cycle, is a graphic representation of the maturity and acceptance of a technology (see image, taken from Wikipedia). The hype cycle is characterized by a peak of inflated expectations, followed by a rough period of disillusionment, which is succeeded by enlightenment and productivity. There can be some arguing whether graphene, being a radically disruptive technology, will follow this curve. It seems that carbon nanotubes, which are often compared to graphene, do seem to follow along just nicely. Carbon nanotubes have now reached the “trough of disillusionment”, and have perhaps advanced slightly up the “slope of enlightenment”. But do we know where we are now on the graphene hype curve?
I am open to comments and suggestions, however it is difficult to believe that there can be even more hype about graphene. The community has experienced a tremble mid-january, with BBC coverage triggering a surge in interest in graphene. Tim Harper described the hype very well, by stating that “it is snowing graphene“. Soon after, we had the patent distribution discussion, caused by the CambridgeIP global graphene patent report. Almost immediately after that, the European Commission announced that it has awarded graphene research with 1 billion euros of funding. As if that wasn’t enough, UCLA researchers published a video showing how they burn electronic circuits using a DVD writer and a DVD covered with graphene. Not a day goes by without some news headline touting that graphene will save the world’s energy problems, make our computers faster, and lead to wireless circuits imprinted on our skin. There are even videos of Novak Djokovic using a graphene racket. So is this it? Are we at the peak of the hype cycle?
Unfortunately, we could still be on the slope going up, with the hype perpetually feeding on itself. However, there are voices of reason, like that of Jon Myers in his recent article for PE World. Jon calls for a body to regulate the hype and promote realism and rational co-operation within the graphene industry. I definitely back Jon’s idea, as it is one of the primary goals of Graphene Tracker to sift through the hype and bring only news that are pertinent to actual products and business developments in the community. It is for this reason that Graphene Tracker does not report on scientific breakthroughs from academic labs, and it is for this reason that we try to follow graphene patents and companies, especially smaller ones, which rely on the success of their graphene products for survival.
I encourage small companies to keep Graphene Tracker updated on new products and business news, and on my behalf I will attempt to keep hype away from the website. In the meantime, let’s hope that Jon Myers’ idea of an industry regulation body comes to life, for the good of us all.