Graphite and methods of graphene productionThe potential of graphene might not have been recognized had it not been for groundbreaking research with one of the best-known forms of carbon: graphite. Graphite is essentially made up layers of graphene stacked on top of each other to form a three-dimensional structure. Looking at it from the other side, graphene is fundamentally graphite in a single layer. The total global production volume of graphite amounted to an estimated 1.1 million metric tons in 2020. Graphite reserves are well above annual production, at 320 million metric tons worldwide as of 2020.
There are several ways to produce graphene; some are more technical than others. One method involves heating copper at a very high temperature and introducing methane, which causes graphene to grow on both sides of the copper. A much simpler method was used at The University of Manchester in 2004 by two researchers — Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov — when they originally isolated the first-ever two-dimensional material.Thin flakes of carbon were extracted from graphite using sticky tape. The researchers repeatedly peeled the flakes until they became so thin that specialist equipment had to be used to determine the number of individual graphene layers within the flakes. Fast forward to 2021, and there were nearly 60 carbon fiber and graphene manufacturing businesses in the United States alone.
The Canadian corporation NanoXplore had the leading market capitalization of any graphene producer in the world as of May 2021, at 428 million U.S. dollars. The company specializes in the development of graphene-based formulations that can be used to improve the performance of materials such as thermoplastic and thermoset polymers, and produces a graphene powder consisting of six to ten atomic layers.