In their paper, "The rise of Graphene" A.K. Geim and K.S. Novoselov, of the Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology, University of Manchester point out, in understated terms, that "Graphene is a rapidly rising star on the horizon of materials science and condensed matter physics"!
I say this is an understatement because it does not adequately describe the profound changes in modern society that graphene development promises to deliver.
At this writing, hundreds of companies and labs around the world are in a frenzy of testing and development to bring the amazing properties of Graphene into the production of nanoscale computer chips, super strength (and super light weight) materials for Aeronautic, military and space applications, electronics, medicine, energy storage and so many other areas too numerous to mention here. Lux Research, in their report on advanced materials, lists the following:
Large companies at the forefront of graphene engineering include a who's who of the tech world. To date there has been a virtual space race to patent all of the properties of this "wonder material".
Princeton University's Quentin Tannock, in an article entitled "Exploiting carbon flatland" points out how many of today's Universities now value the patent landscape as a scientific "sharing" of information for experimentation, and in particular, in the area of Graphene and Nano Engineering. He also laments how many researchers are unable to capitalize on their discoveries in the marketplace, without a partnership of some sort with private companies. Although Rice University and the University of Manchester have been at the forefront of Graphene experimentation, it is private industry that owns most of the patents in graphene development.
Three Tech giants, IBM, Samsung and Sandisk, already have filed hundreds of patents for graphene discoveries. These three in fact hold the most patents in that order, and are at the forefront of graphene development in electronics and Semiconductors. For instance IBM holds graphene patents for such diverse applications as DNA Sequencing, graphene transistors, 3D, and graphene solar cells, just to name a few. Samsung's include: flexible screens, graphene/lithium batteries, moisture resistant electronics, and antidot spin valves.
Other patent holders include (but are not limited to) : The U.S. Navy (high resolution films), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) (batteries), Head (tennis rackets), Kia and Hyundai (fuel cells), Saab (de-icing airplanes) Kimberly Clark (NYSE:KMB), Toyota (NYSE:TM) (lithium air batteries), Sony (NYSE:SNE) (drug delivery), Honda (NYSE:HMC) (gas sensors), Xerox (NYSE:XRX) (printing), Angston (lubricants), Polimeri (Thermal insulation), Foxconn (loudspeakers), AMD (NYSE:AMD) (3D), DOE (Tesla coils), and Bayer (Obtaining graphene from graphite by chemical means)
There is also a global race for patents in the nanomedicine field. At Lake Forest Medical Research Centre, Dr. Ravi Singh is currently researching the use of Graphene nanotubes to target and destroy cancer tumors. This is only one of many possible medical uses for this wonder material.
There is not enough room here to list all of the companies,the patent applications, or potential uses for graphene based materials, but you get the point. That is, the world is about to change and fortunes will be made!
In January of this year, the European Commission made graphene research a priority, pledging $1 Billion Euros to research and development of graphene initiatives. A "graphene Flagship Consortium" headed by Nokia (NYSE:NOK) recently received a $1.35 Billion graphene research grant from the EU.
From an investors perspective, many companies stand to benefit from their graphene patents and research. Because of their front runner positions on the patent landscape, I believe the best bets are: International Business Machines Nokia Sandisk (SNDK) and Samsung. Both IBM and Samsung each hold over 100 patents in the graphene space and Nokia has been at the forefront of research since 2006.
There are also many private companies racing to capitalize on the many qualities of the "wonder material". I suspect the IPO space will start filling up with these as early as next year. While we wait for that to happen I like companies positioned to supply top quality graphite which is most prized in the production of graphene. These would be akin to acquiring the "picks and shovels" suppliers of the Klondike gold rush.
My top pick is Graftech International (GTI) a Global graphite player based in the USA with over 125 years in the business. Graftech is a leading supplier of carbon and graphite products for industry and is well positioned to take advantage of it's economy of scale as it enters the graphene market. Since 2011, Graftech Stock, as shown in the chart, has been in decline, but not the company itself as it is poised to benefit most from the infant graphene market.
Graftech is a leader in the field of graphite production, and will continue to be. The double bottom shown in the chart indicates a turn around in the stock price. We bought this stock last month.
Grafoid, a privately held research and development company is quietly positioning itself as a liaison between the graphite mines, the scientific research groups, and graphene user companies. Although it is a private company at present, it is 40% owned by a small Canadian graphite miner, Focus Graphite, which trades on the Canadian Venture Exchange and recently announced the first "trade-marked" graphene called "MesoGraf".
Privately held Angstron Materials (owned by Nanotek Instruments and based in Ohio, USA) is developing and producing nano graphene platelets (NGPs), and also provide pristine graphite and single layer graphene. (Look for an IPO as this company grows up)
There are also many small labs and companies such as Anderlab Technologies of Mumbai India, which manufactures graphene and carbon nanotubes for research.
Flinders Resources which is positioned to supply Europe with top quality graphite from its proven Woxna mine in Sweden, just made it's first shipment of raw material to Germany last week. It is also listed on the Canadian Venture Exchange, along with Northern Graphite, Zenyatta Ventures and Lomiko Metals, all of which show promise in the field.
Early investing in new technologies is often a crap shoot, however, the big dogs of the tech world that are at the forefront of research and patent acquisition hold the most promise. They also have the most value regardless of the graphene craze.
Disclosure: I am long GTI, OTCQX:FCSMF, FLNXF.PK. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.