Is India missing the graphene bus?

Source– The post is based on the article “Is India missing the graphene bus?” published in “The Hindu” on 1st June 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Science and Technology. GS3- Economy

Relevance- Issues related to soft power

News– Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing and graphene will disrupt the existing human-machine interface in the next couple of decades.

Why is graphene an important material?

Graphene is the world’s thinnest, strongest, and most conductive material of both electricity and heat. It conducts electricity better than copper. It is 200 times stronger than steel but six times lighter.

It is almost perfectly transparent as it absorbs only 2% of light. It is impermeable to gases. It has the potential to revolutionise electricity, conductivity, energy generation, batteries, sensors and more.

Graphene composites are used in aerospace, automotive, sports equipment and construction.

It is used for high-performance batteries and supercapacitors, touchscreens, and conductive inks. Graphene-based sensors are used for environmental monitoring, healthcare and wearable devices.

Graphene oxide membranes are used for water purification and desalination. Graphene-based masks were made during COVID.

Graphene is important for defence and aerospace. Its exceptional strength makes it promising material for armour and ballistic protection.

Graphene has the potential to absorb and dissipate electromagnetic waves. So, it is valuable for developing stealth coatings and materials that reduce radar signatures and electromagnetic interference.

Graphene is highly sensitive to environmental changes. It can be used in sensing chemical and biological agents, explosives, radiation, and other hazardous substances.

What is the status of the graphene industry?

The global graphene market size was valued at $175.9 million in 2022. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 46.6% between 2023 and 2030. Over 300 companies are now producing graphene or its derivatives.

Among the leading countries in graphene research are China, the U.S., the U.K., Japan, South Korea, Russia, and Singapore.

Till 2012, graphene-related patent filing was dominated by the U.S. After 2017, China surged ahead. In 2018, China filed 218 patents while the other leading countries together filed 79. India had eight filings.

China and Brazil are global leaders in the commercial production of graphene. India produces about one-twentieth compared to China and one-third compared to Brazil.

What is the progress of India in the case of graphene?

The Centre for Nano Science and Engineering at IISc Bangalore along with KAS Tech produced a graphene-based system several years ago.

Some start-ups and foreign subsidiaries have started graphene or graphene derivatives in India. Tata Steel has succeeded in growing graphene. It has also mixed graphene with used plastic products to recycle them as new.

The IIT Roorkee-incubated Log 9 has patented a technology for graphene-based ultracapacitors, and the IIT Kanpur-incubated RF Nanocomposites has developed EMI shielding and stealth technology using graphene-based nanotubes.

The India Innovation Centre for Graphene has been set up in Kerala. It is being implemented by the Digital University Kerala in partnership with Tata Steel and C-MET, Thrissur.

What is the way forward to improve the performance of the graphene industry in India?

Governments will have to play a crucial role. China declared graphene a priority in its 13th Plan. India needs a national graphene mission. A nodal Ministry needs to be entrusted with this responsibility.

India needs to be a leader in graphene because we may experience the ‘winner takes the most’ situation here. its production may get concentrated in a few locations in the world, as in the case of semiconductors.

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