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Semiconductor companies, today, are in a difficult position as after years of regular innovation with silicon, which allowed them to generate consistent profits and performance improvements over many years, they are now struggling to generate more value out of silicon.

The question for many has been what material could replace silicon and graphene has been touted as having the potential to equal or surpass silicon’s performance.

In a nutshell, the concept of deploying materials as near perfect sheets just one atom thick, which have totally predictable electrical characteristics, offers a completely new way of constructing the semiconductor devices we’re all dependent on. 

In recent years potential performance improvements in silicon have slowed and as described by one analyst, silicon is now becoming mortal.

In response, the semiconductor industry has been experimenting with a number of exotic new materials, such as silicene, germanene, and black phosphorous, but graphene is seen as having the greatest potential. However, until this point graphene has only ever been grown in small quantities in laboratories by the scientific community and graphene’s commercialisation could be anything up to 25 years away and will require substantial investment in both R&D and capital costs to bring it into production.

Without developing industrial processes, tools and equipment, there’s a risk graphene will never deliver its potential and will forever be caught in a catch 22 of hyperbole.

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