“A terabit per second could be done at a range of about one meter using a graphene antenna, which would make it possible to obtain 10 high-definition movies by waving your phone past another device for one second,” the MIT Technology Review reported this week. In Spain, this could turn out to be big news.
Graphene is a sheet of carbon just one atom thick, in a honeycomb structure, and it has many desirable electronic properties. Electrons move through graphene with virtually no resistance—50 to 500 times faster than they do in silicon. And four Spanish companies lead the European production of graphene. The growth potential of a market that today is valued at some $9 million is extraordinary, but global brands of mass-consumption products haven’t yet taken the step of introducing its use in factories and keep so far experimental positions.
Graphenea Nanomaterials, a Basque Country-based company, has no European competitors in the production of graphene in high quality monolayer, for instance. His CEO, Jesús de la Fuente, says that there are two other businesses in this sector in Korea and the US. “At the moment, the demand is at a trial level,” De la Fuente explains, “but we expect it to change to commercial gear by 2016. We are already selling to Nokia, Philips, Canon, Nissan and other large corporations.” According to Graphenea, prices are now in the region of €0.5 per squared centimetre, although it could drop to just €0.03 in the long term.
From Alicante, in the Valencia region, Graphenano recently opened shop in Germany and is readying plans to begin production at a commercial scale. “We can make 20,000 metres per 10 centimetres in a matter of few hours, something that is unthinkable for other companies,” says vice-president José Antonio Martínez. Graphenano has developed a system that allows it to produce industrial volumes of monolayers and cables.
The material comes in many shapes. Graphene powder, mixed with other elements, offers fire resistance applications sought out by different industries. Its world’s top producer is Avanzare, based in Spain’s La Rioja region. “We don’t work for laboratories, just for large factories, which need large quantities of it. Until it is introduced in retail products, its price will remain high,” director Julio Gómez laments, “so we go for the safe side of the trade and don’t waste resources in investigation.”
Granph Nanotech, in Burgos, sits opposite the road. It provides graphene powder exclusively for investigation and experiments.
According to Teknautas, an online tech news daily, Apple and Samsung would have approached the Spanish graphene industry for their solar energy mobile phone charger projects. Could this be the start of the graphene revolution?