Graphene-based conductive inks were introduced commercially as early as 2009. These graphene printing inks can contain a very wide range of graphene loading, from up to 40% for use as non-transparent conductive inks or as little as 0.1% to 1% in transparent conductive ink applications depending on the level of conductance required.
Because graphene is often sold and distributed in the form of a dispersion, it has long made sense to explore its use in conductive ink applications. One of the challenges for graphene inks to enter the larger printed inks market however has been that companies often have very specific product requirements and typically work with a particular ink formulator. This requires graphene companies to become knowledgeable about printed inks or for traditional ink formulators to understand how to include graphene enhanced products in their product portfolios.
Nonetheless, because graphene-based inks are often significantly cheaper than silver- and copper-based conductive inks, the conductive ink markets represents one of the most promising applications for graphene in the short and medium terms.
Graphene-based conductive inks do face some technical challenges. They struggle to reach the sheet resistance performance of other conductive metal inks and as a result, graphene really competes more with other carbon containing inks (like carbon black) in non-transparent conductive inks applications where it can take advantage of its superior conductivity.
Graphene producers such as Nanotech Energy, Heraeus, Sigma Aldrich (now Millapore Sigma), Versarien, Haydale, Vorbeck Materials and others have developed graphene-based conductive inks for the following printed electronic applications:
Market research firms have estimated that graphene-based conductive inks in the flexible and stretchable electronics market reached revenues of approximately $97.6 million in 2018 and will grown to $385.8 million in 2027, representing a nearly 33% annual growth rate over the nine-year period.
For more information see the IDTEchEx report on Graphene, 2D Materials and Carbon Nanotubes: Markets, Technologies and Opportunities 2019-2029 and attend Graphene USA 2019.
Terrance Barkan CAE
The Graphene Council