investing in graphene: discover the next big thing
Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb (hexagons or chicken-wire) crystal lattice. Researchers started to study Graphene in 2004, and since then they have found dozens of potential applications and exciting properties of this wonder material. Graphene is set to revolutionize a lot of industries, including sensors, batteries, conductors, displays, electronics, energy generation, medicine and more.
Graphene is the strongest material ever developed - 200 times stronger than steel and tougher than a diamond. It's also the world's thinnest material, and it is flexible and transparent. Graphene is also the best heat and electricity conductor. As can be expected, the research community is very excited about this material, and the business world follows suit. The commercialization of graphene is just in its infancy, but already dozens of new companies have been established to develop graphene based material, graphene production processes and other related activities.
Investing in a pure-play graphene company is not easy, as almost all of these companies are currently privately held. As we said graphene is still an early stage play and so all those graphene companies you can in find our index are usually small and young startups.
Pure-play graphene companies
There are several pure-play graphene public companies, most of them based in the UK. Haydale (AIM:HAYD) develops and markets carbon materials under the HDPlas brand. The company currently focuses on graphene, CNTs and zinc nanomaterials, and also developed metal-free graphene-based inks. In October 2013 we posted an article explaining Haydale's business and technology.
Applied Graphene Materials (previously Durham Graphene Science) was established in 2010 as a spin-off from Durham University to develop a new graphene synthesis method and produce graphene materials. AGM's technology is a unique patented scalable 'bottom-up' CVD approach to produce graphene. In 2013 the company announced plans to go public and list on the UK's AIM stock exchange.
Carbon Sciences is developing a graphene production process technology that was originally invented at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). The process transforms natural gas into commercial size sheets of graphene that can be fine-tuned with application-specific electrical and materials properties. Carbon Sciences is a public company trading on the NASDAQ (OTC:CABN).
Cientifica (AIM:CTFA) started trading in October 2013 when they raised only £241,000 ($389,000) to invest and acquire graphene application businesses. They have an option to acquire 49.9% in RainMaker and are also collaborating with London Graphene. In 2014 the company wanted to raise more funds but failed. With so little funds, investment seems highly risky.
Graphene 3D Labs (TSX:GGG) is focusing on development of high-performance graphene-enhanced materials for 3D printing. The company was spun-off Graphene Labs with support from Lomiko Metals (who holds 15% of the company). In August 2014 graphene 3D Labs went public after a reverse merger with Matnic Resources.
Several large and public companies (such as Samsung, Intel, Nokia, IBM and Sony) are involved in graphene research. While their research may be advanced (Samsung holds the largest graphene patents in the world), graphene represents a small portion of their business. Even if graphene fulfills its promise, it's hardly likely to change the company's business and revenues in any major way.
Graphene production equipment
Producing graphene is very challenging, and no one is mass producing the material yet. Some companies, however, offer some tools used in the manufacturing process, and these companies may enjoy a sales boom if/when graphene takes off. But remember that graphene producing equipment represents just one segment of these company's business.
Aixtron AG is a provider of deposition equipment to the semiconductor industry who offers the BM Pro systems (previously called Black Magic systems). BM Pro systems can be used to deposit graphene using both chemical vapor deposition (CVD) and plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD). Aixtron trades in the NASDAQ (ticker:AIXG).
CVD Equipment Corporation (a NY,US based company) offers a variety of process and support equipment, for both R&D and production facilities. CVD is offering graphene materials and other services for graphene production and processing. The company is also co-developing graphene-based lithium battery electrodes with Norway's Graphene Batteries. CVD Equipment trades in the NASDAQ (ticker: CVV).
Graphite mining companies
Our next suggestion is to invest in companies involved with Graphite - which is actually a stake of graphene sheets. Graphite is used today in many applications and is already a big market. Some of these companies are also eyeing graphene - planning to start graphene production or investing in graphene related companies. Here are some graphite related companies that has some direct ties to graphene as well:
Focus Graphite (based in Canada) is a mid-tier junior graphite mine developer and technology developer company. Focus Graphite owns the highest-grade (roughly 16%) technology graphite resource in the world (at Lac Knife in Quebec). The company owns 40% of Graphene startup Grafoid (these two companies are also collaborating on R&D). Focus Graphite trades in the Canadian market and in the OTC market (ticker: FCSMF).
Mason Graphite (based in Canada) is a Canadian mining company focused on the exploration and development of its 100% owned Lac Gueret graphite project in northeastern Quebec. In January 2014, Mason Graphite acquired 40% of graphene R&D company NanoXplore. Mason Graphite trades in the Toronto stock exchange (ticker: LLG).
Northern Graphite Corporation is a Canadian mine development company, and its main asset is the Bissett Creek graphite project located 100km east of North Bay, Ontario. The company is also involved with Graphene research. NGC trades in the Canadian stock exchange (ticker: NGC) and in the OTC (ticker: NGPHF).
National Graphene Corporation: a US company that is focused on bringing the Chedic Graphite Mine back into commercial production. In June 2013 they signed an agreement with American Graphene to jointly explore graphene opportunities and employ a new sonication process to reduce graphite to graphene. The company is public and trades in the OTC (OTCQB: NGRC).
Lomiko Metals: an exploration-stage Canadian company that aims to acquire and develop mineral resources in Canada. It primarily explores graphite, zinc and gold. Lomiko owns several resource properties containing high-grade graphite, and the company has signed a strategic alliance with Graphene Labs to co-develop a vertically integrated graphene supply chain, holds 15% in Graphene 3D Labs, and it also plans to establish a graphene R&D department. Lomiko Metals is a public company, trading in the TSX (ticker: LMR.V).
GrafTech International is a global company with more than 120 years of experience in the carbon and graphite industry. GrafTech makes an expanded natural graphite foil that keeps most of graphene's properties (thermal, electrical, and possibly acoustic). The company says that their graphite-foil is used in many devices, including the iPhone and Samsung's new TVs. The company is public and trades in the NYSE (ticker: GTI).
American Graphite Technologies (AGT) is a mineral exploration and technology development company. AGT has 100% ownership of 100 mineral claims in Quebec, Canada (close by to Focus Graphite's proven graphite resource). AGT is also involved with graphene related technologies and is partnering with CTI Nanotechnologies LLC. AGT is trading in the NASDAQ (OTCBB: AGIN).
Australia-based Talga Resources holds a high-grade graphite mine in Sweden (in addition to gold and iron mines in Australia). The company is also producing graphene on a very small scale, but may become a full-scale graphene producer (in a Sweden-based plant).
Our final graphite company is Carbon Graphite Group, based in Chengguan Town (Xinghe). CCG manufactures and sells graphite-based products in China. CCG's products include graphite electrodes, fine grain graphite blocks and high purity graphite. CCG is also active with graphene technology research. CCG is trading in the NASDAQ's OTC market (ticker: CHGI).
Another possibility to invest in graphene is buy shares in a company that owns or holds a stake in a graphene company. One such possibility is POSCO, a public company (NYSE:PKX) that holds 20% of XG Sciences, a US based company that develops and markets xGnP - Graphene Nanoplatelets (flakes). xGnP can be used to replace carbon nanotubes - at a lower cost. We interviewed the company's CEO in July 2013 and he explains more about the company's technology and business.
As we mentioned before, Focus Graphite owns 40% of graphene developer Grafoid, and it trades in the OTC market (ticker: FCSMF).
Graphene Nanochem is a UK based company that holds the exclusive license to a process known as Catalyx which uses a catalyst to extract graphene from biogases (such as methane). This process can potentially mean low-cost graphene production. They are also developing graphene-enhanced lubricants for used in the extraction of shale gas. The company main asset is the Malaysian specialty chemicals group Platinum Nanochem. Graphene Nanochem is trading in the UK's AIM (ticker:GRPH).
Valence Industries is an Australian industrial manufacturing company that produces high grade flake graphite products. In March 2014 Valence launched the Graphene Research Centre in collaboration with the University of Adelaide, with hopes to start initial graphene product sales in the first half of 2014. Valence is a public company that trades in Australia (ASX:VXL).
Strategic Energy Resources (SER) is an Australian based explorer with a diversified portfolio of mineral assets. In May 2014 the company announced it is resolved to focus on graphene related investments. The company holds a stake in Valence Industries, also involved with graphene. SER is a public company, trading in the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX:SER)
Note: the author of this page does not hold shares in any of the above mentioned companies.