China Focus: Graphene industry gathers pace in China

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The new material graphene has been developing fast in China, increasingly being used in a variety of areas.

At a graphene forum in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Monday, Feng Guanping presented temperature-controlled leg guards, scarves and cushions. All the items had a heatable graphene film inside, which can generate heat for up to six hours.

"The temperatures can also be changed artificially," said Feng, president of Shenzhen Grahope New Materials Technologies.

Graphene is the world's strongest and lightest material; a single layer of graphene is just 0.335 nanometers thick and can conduct heat and electricity.

In China, the material is already a big industry, with more than 500 companies specializing in different graphene-related products.

Smartphones, for example, can easily get overheated when people make long calls or play games, but the problem has basically been solved with the application of graphene. A company in eastern China's Changzhou has developed a heat conducting material from graphene, which is being used in smartphnes. The invention helped increase the company's revenue from 6 million yuan (904,600 U.S. dollars) to 200 million yuan within three years.

Earlier this year, a Chinese company claimed to have developed "the world's first graphene electronic paper," with production expected within a year. Compared with traditional e-paper, graphene e-paper is more pliable and intense, and its light transmitting properties will make optical displays brighter than ever.

Industry insiders predict the rapid development of graphene will catapult the material to a new level in the near future. According to the China Innovation Alliance of the Graphene Industry (CIAGI), global graphene market value will exceed 100 billion yuan by 2020.

China will take a big slice of the market. According to a global index released in July, China topped the United States and the Republic of Korea in graphene development in 2015.

China's has about 40 percent of the world's graphene patents. Last year, the central government urged the graphene sector to become a leading industry, with the material being increasingly used in industrial and consumer products.

"Chinese companies have developed a slew of graphene applications in areas such as energy storage, paint, and conducting film, so we can expect rapid industrialization," said Shang Yong, standing vice president of the China Association for Science and Technology.

Graphene development is seeing so much progress in China that leading foreign experts are visting to share ideas and gain experience.

At the ongoing graphene forum in Guangxi's capital Nanning, Professor Konstantin Novoselov, whose work on graphene earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010, said that graphene has led to many possibilities and opportunities, and the new material will be applied in telecommunications and the Internet of things.

However, the professor pointed out that it will take some time before graphene makes a big impact on society.

Despite the turbo-charged development, some experts have voiced concerns.

Li Yichun, CIAGI secretary-general, said that China's investment in the industry was not enough when compared to other countries.

"Currently, companies in the Chinese industry are mainly small-and medium-sized, while in the United States and many European countries, big transnational corporations are working in the industry," Li said.

China should strive to make more graphene applications in photoelectricity and the somatic sciences if it wants to see more progress in the future, said Professor Kang Feiyu of Tsinghua University. Endi

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