There is a new material causing a bit of a buzz in scientific and investor circles. It's discovery earned a couple of Nobel Prizes for the scientists who stumbled upon it, and it holds more records in the world of science than any other thing on earth. It is 200 times stronger than iron, has zero band gap, meaning that it has superconductor like properties, is flexible, and can be used to generate power from the sun. If there is one substance you need to know more about then that substance is graphene.
So, what is graphene? Well, at its simplest graphene is a single atom deep arrangement of carbon atoms. There are several allotropes of carbon, including graphite, diamond and fullerene, and graphene happens to be what you get when you remove single sheets of graphite layer by layer. The atoms are arranged hexagonally, exactly as they are in graphite, but the sheets are only one atom in depth. They were first discovered by two Manchester University scientists, Geim and Novoselov, when they rubbed a simple graphite pencil across a piece of scotch tape. Its an experiment that anyone could do, but which through continual refinement has resulted in a material that sells for hundreds of dollars per square inch. Graphene is such a wonder material, so strong and flexible, that it is the only substance on earth that could theoretically be used to build Arthur C. Clarke's dreamed of elevator into space. Yep, that right, an elevator that joins earth to outer space. How did we ever live without the possibility of one of those? If you tried to construct one from any other substance it would simply break under the strain of gravity.
But an escalator to space is not the reason investors have got excited about this new form of carbon. Oh no, people are investing in graphene stocks because of the potential graphene has for replacing silicon as the best material from which computer chips can be made. The last days of silicon valley have been heralded, what lies ahead in the future is something likely to be called Graphene Valley. And what's-more the list of other applications keeps growing day by day: nanoscale batteries with 20 year lifetimes, nanosmedicine applications, super efficient solar panels, light weight and strong aircraft and vehicles that reduce pollution and save on fuel, DNA sensors, the list just grows and grows.
Graphene is the one investment that the large technology and research companies can't afford to not be in on. Patent applications are being submitted every day, and the major Universities, indeed the governments of the strongest nations on earth, are all feverishly researching and financing the graphene marketplace. The UK recently announced the development of a Graphene hub in Manchester at the cost of $120 million to the tax payer, the South Korean government has funded research to the tune of $300 million, and the Chinese are sure to be investing as they cotrol 80% of the global graphite market.
So, what investment strategy should be taken? Well, there are a number of options available to the average investor. Firstly you could invest in high quality graphite mines. The price of graphite has already sky-rocketed but the expectation is that this run is set to continue. Alternatively you could invest in one of the few graphene production companies that are currently traded on the stock exchange, or perhaps more safely, try one of the large multinationals that are integrating graphene into their new technologies. Samsung, the South Korean multinational, and IBM are both known to be investing heavily in the potential of the material.
So, that's it. How did we ever live without graphene? Well, the truth is we managed; we used fossil fuels for energy, steel for construction, and large doses of medication in the fight against disease. The graphene future promises an answer to the problems that these old solutions caused, and only time will reveal how graphene shapes the future.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.