Group NanoXplore has recently announced plans to become a public company, with a business strategy of acquiring companies in order to introduce graphene to the products. NanoXplore says it is on track to offer graphene at $10/kg. We recently discussed this goal with the company’s CEO, Dr. Soroush Nazarpour.

NanoXplore Hexo-G graphene powder photo

Dr. Soroush explains that at the simplest level, commercialization of graphene requires either developing new applications and products, or replacing existing products. There are many examples of graphene companies pursuing each of these approaches. NanoXplore is one company targeting existing products. They plan to dramatically reduce the price of graphene so that it can compete with carbon black.

Per a 2015 report from MarketsandMarkets, the global carbon black market was worth US$ 11.2B in 2015, with a 2021 forecast of US$ 13.8B, and a CAGR of 4.6% (2015 - 2021). 70% of carbon black by volume is used for tires where it performs a vital role in decreasing tread wear and rolling resistance, improving handling, increasing fuel efficiency, and improving grip on the road surface. 20% of carbon black by volume is used for other plastics/rubbers, where it makes polymers more resistant to UV radiation, provides conductivity and antistatic properties, and is increasing used as a pigment in lightweight auto-parts to improve conductivity.

In September 2016, Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research published a report on Advanced Materials (Profiles in Innovation). Goldman Sachs analysed the possibility of using graphene instead of carbon black to reinforce tires. They estimated that for tires requiring 25 weight% loading of carbon black, graphene at 1.5 weight% would provide the same or better performance. Based upon this graphene loading and assuming a carbon black price US$1.50/kg, Goldman Sachs calculated that graphene would be competitive at a cost of US$25/kg.

NanoXplore believes that a selling price of less than US$10/kg would be required to ensure the rapid take up of graphene across carbon black markets. The most basic and inexpensive carbon black sells for between $US 1-2/kg and is typically used at around 30 weight % loading, although loadings in some products such as rubber can exceed 50 weight%. Specialty varieties of carbon back can cost up to $50/kg or more, and high conductivity versions cost around $25/kg. For the same benefit in the final product, graphene loadings of 1-5 weight% would be typical. Therefore, graphene selling at US$10/kg would be competitive with even the most basic and inexpensive carbon black.

Pricing today for graphene powder ranges between US$50-$200/kg, depending on quality and volume of purchase. Is a graphene price of $10/kg achievable? NanoXplore believes it is. They claim that the simplicity and high-yield of their patented graphene production process makes it uniquely scalable. Further, they say that scalability of the process has been rigorously demonstrated over the last 3 years and is now at a capacity of 25 tonnes/year. NanoXplore has begun planning for a 10, 000 tonnes/year facility that could be online within 2-3 years.