Graphene: The Wonder Material of the Future
There is a new wonder material in town, and its name is graphene. Since it was first successfully isolated in 2004, graphene, with its honeycomb-like 2D structure and its wide gamut of interesting properties, has been keenly studied by material scientists.
This naturally transparent 1 millimeter thick lattice of carbon atoms has multiple applications and could even one day potentially solve the world’s water crisis.
The faith in the material is so strong that, according to numbers projected by Fortune Business Insights, its market value will be $2.8 billion in 2027.
In this infographic from HydroGraph, we are introduced to the fascinating world of graphene, including its properties, applications, history and production.
What is Graphene?
It is a single layer (monolayer) of carbon atoms, tightly bound in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. It is the building block of graphite, which is made up of multiple layers of these monolayer carbon atoms on top of each other.
Here is a quick breakdown of its properties:
- It is the lightest material known to man, with 1 square meter weighing only 0.77 milligrams.
- Despite its light weight, it is still 200 times stronger than steel.
- It is one of the strongest conductors of heat and electricity.
- It also has uniform absorption of light across the visible and near-infrared parts of the spectrum.
Given that graphene is a pure carbon-based material, it is potentially a sustainable solution for an almost limitless number of applications.
Importance of the Material in Future Applications
The future of science and technology is boundless, and graphene can help accomplish that future sooner than we expect.
Here are several profound inventions to look forward to in the near future:
Fuel from Air
A team of UK researchers led by Nobel Laureate Andre Geim have shown that graphene can be used as a proton exchange membrane in fuel cells.
The find surprised everybody since no one expected the membranes to allow protons to pass through its tight, one-atom-thick hexagon structure. In addition, graphene membranes could be used to sieve hydrogen gas out of the atmosphere, making it possible for mobile fuel cells to run on nothing but air.
More Drinkable Water
Graphene could help solve the world’s water crisis. Membranes made from graphene can be big enough to let water through, but small enough to filter out the salt. In other words, these membranes could revolutionize desalination technology.
In fact, a type of graphene has proven so effective at water filtration that it rendered water samples from Sydney Harbor safe to drink after passing through the filter just once.
Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) used “graphair” to make seawater drinkable after a single treatment.
A World Without Rust
Because it is virtually impermeable, a coat of graphene-based paint could one day be used to eradicate corrosion and rust. This is highly important because the estimated global cost of corrosion is $2.5 trillion annually.
Researchers have also recommended using glassware or copper plates covered with graphene paint as containers for strongly corrosive acids.
Saving Artwork from Fading
Graphene offers several material advantages: it can be produced in large, thin sheets; it blocks ultraviolet light; and is impermeable to oxygen, moisture, and other corrosive agents.
Layered overtop an artwork, researchers posited that it could prevent irreversible color fading due to light exposure and oxidizing agents (like air). Their findings revealed that a single protective layer could avert color fading by up to 70%.
Why Hasn’t the Wonder Material Taken Over?
Work still needs to be done before there can be widespread adoption of the material. Several production issues need to be addressed before more advanced sectors opt to implement it.
One current challenge of mass production revolves around chemical vapor deposition (CVD). While it is the best method for producing single-layer graphene, it is not ideal in terms of scale.
These challenges also make mass production a costly affair. It takes about $100 to produce a single gram of graphene. Even then, the methods used for mass-producing graphene yield low-quality products and release carbon into the environment.
Solving the Graphene Production Problem
To overcome these issues, HydroGraph has created a process to mass-produce graphene powder. It is environmentally conscious and highly efficient compared to other methods currently used in the market.
The HydroGraph process is the next step in the energy-efficient, environmentally friendly and customizable mass production of graphene.
Click here to learn more about HydroGraph and its wide array of product offerings.
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Operational Health Tech: A New Billion Dollar Market
Operational health tech is poised to be a multi-billion dollar industry. This graphic breaks down how its disrupting healthcare as we know it.
Operational Health Tech: A New Billion Dollar Market
Many lessons were learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but what has become most apparent is the need to invest in healthcare on all fronts. In fact in just a few short years, businesses, governments, and consumers have had to entirely reassess healthcare in ways not quite seen before.
What’s more, this elevated importance placed on health could be here to stay, and one area in particular is poised for significant growth: operational health tech.
The graphic above from our sponsor Bloom Health Partners dives into the burgeoning market that is operational health tech, and reveals the key driving forces behind it.
What is Operational Health?
To start, operational health is an industry that provides health services to employees to help keep companies running smoothly.
A critical piece of operational health is workplace health, which is expected to soar in value. From 2021 to 2025, the market for workplace health is expected to grow 200% from $6.5 billion to $19.5 billion.
The industry is undergoing a tremendous amount of innovation, specifically in relation to technological advances.
Operational Health Tech: Disrupting Healthcare
The operational health tech industry is disrupting traditional healthcare by providing direct services to employees in the workplace.
For decades now, the U.S. has increasingly become a statistical outlier for healthcare spending relative to health outcomes. For instance, the average American incurs $9,000 in healthcare spending per year, nearly twice that of OECD countries, yet life expectancy is flatlining while other countries see rises.
A worsening and increasingly expensive health dynamic makes the environment ripe for disruption and is allowing for new ideas to be brought to the table.
In addition, people are already responding to these inefficient practices by shifting greater emphasis on health within the job market. For example, studies show that workers care more about healthcare benefits over the salaries when choosing an employer.
Going forward, employees will gravitate towards employers that provide standout health benefits like workplace healthcare options offered by operational health. Here are some additional factors that act as catalysts for this space.
1. Healthcare as Smart Business
What do companies that rank as some of the best to work for have in common? First, they all tend to outperform relative to the S&P 500 on a cumulative stock performance basis. Second, many offer superior healthcare benefits.
Moreover, from 2012 to 2022, companies that were the best to work for saw shares appreciate nearly 500%, compared to around 300% for the broader market. Data like this suggests investing in healthcare and keeping employees happy is smart business that pays dividends.
2. Healthcare as a Differentiator
Since 2020, labor markets have changed dramatically. As a result, employees now have more options and are much more selective about where they work. This is evident from the difference between job openings and hires which has risen to unrecognizable levels. For example, the data shows that there are nearly 12 million job openings, but only around 6-7 million hires in 2022.
Altogether, with an oversupply of jobs relative to workers, employers will have to find new ways to differentiate. One way to stand out is through healthcare and initiatives around operational health tech.
3. The Looming Mental Health Epidemic
Today some 700 million people suffer from some form of a mental health condition and COVID-19 has continued to exacerbate the problem.
Moreover, the cost of mental health for the global economy is estimated to be a whopping $6 trillion by 2030, over double compared to the $2.5 trillion figure in 2010.
Under the umbrella of services operational health tech covers, mental health will stand to benefit. Especially in the years to come as we look for new ways to combat its mounting costs.
Investing in Operational Health Tech
Bloom Health Partners is an operational health tech company looking to revolutionize workplace health by supplying employers with data to better understand their employee base and business.
One way Bloom stands out is with Bloom Shield—its flagship cloud-based big data platform for employee health data management. With Bloom Shield, new health insights become available to make better decisions. Employers can get insight into demographic data and age trends within the workplace, pre-screening detection for cancer and diabetes, and testing for management to tackle the spread of disease.
Click here to learn more about investing in operational health tech with Bloom Health Partners.
How Environmental Markets Advance Net Zero
The global price of carbon increased 91% in 2021. Below, we show how environmental markets are supporting a greener future.
How Environmental Markets Advance Net Zero
In 2021, roughly 20% of global carbon emissions were covered by carbon pricing mechanisms.
Meanwhile, the global price of carbon increased 91%, bolstered by government, corporate, and investor demand. This puts traditional fuel sources at a disadvantage, instead building the investment case for renewables.
This infographic from ICE, the first in a three part series on the ESG toolkit, explores how environmental markets work and their role in the fight against climate change.
What are Environmental Markets?
First, meeting a goal of net zero carbon emissions involves limiting the use of the world’s finite carbon budget to meet a 1.5°C pathway.
Achieving net zero requires us to:
- Change how we utilize energy and transition to less carbon-intensive fuels
- Put a value on the conservation of nature or “natural capital” and carbon sinks, which accumulate and store carbon
Environmental markets facilitate the pathway to net zero by valuing externalities, such as placing a cost on pollution and placing a price on carbon storage. This helps balance the carbon cycle to manage the carbon budget in the most cost-effective manner.
What Is the Carbon Budget?
To keep temperatures 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we have just 420 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO₂ remaining in the global carbon budget. At current rates, this remaining carbon budget is projected to be consumed by 2030 if no reductions are made.
Each scenario based on a 50% chance of success
Source: IPCC AR6 WG; Friedlingstein et al 2021; Global Carbon Budget 2021
Across three different scenarios, the above table indicates the amount of carbon emissions humanity can emit to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
What are Negative and Positive Externalities?
Second, when companies compensate for CO₂ emissions, they can fall across two categories: negative and positive externalities.
- Negative externalities include pollution. Carbon cap and trade programs, using carbon allowances, put a cost on pollution.
- Positive externalities include renewables, such as wind and solar power that generate carbon-free electricity. The value of renewable energy can be expressed with a renewable energy certificate.
Natural capital is another example of a positive externality, which involves the capturing and storing of carbon. The value of this type of natural capital can be expressed using a carbon credit.
Environmental Markets and the Energy Transition
Next, environmental markets can drive the transition to cleaner energy sources by ascribing a cost to pollution and putting a premium on renewables, to change how we use energy.
As one example, in 2013 the UK government introduced the Carbon Price Support mechanism to complement the emissions cap and trade program and weaken the investment case for coal. Between 2013 and 2020, Britain’s overall CO₂ emissions fell by 31%.
Here’s how coal was phased out of the UK’s energy mix, while renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and bioenergy played a greater role.
|Date||Coal||Gas||Wind and Solar||Bioenergy|
|Q1 2000||31 TWh||40 TWh||0 TWh||1 TWh|
|Q1 2005||41 TWh||36 TWh||1 TWh||2 TWh|
|Q1 2010||31 TWh||47 TWh||2 TWh||3 TWh|
|Q1 2015||28 TWh||23 TWh||13 TWh||6 TWh|
|Q1 2020||3 TWh||27 TWh||28 TWh||9 TWh|
Source: Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES); BP; EMBER via Our World in Data (2021)
Today, less than 5% of the UK’s electricity is coal-generated, with remaining plants expected to be decommissioned by 2024.
How Environmental Markets are Advancing Net Zero
Finally, as governments increase their commitments to net zero, carbon prices are rising towards a level that requires industries to decarbonize and meet those goals.
In fact, between 2014 and 2021, the global price of carbon has increased over sixfold.
|Date||Global Carbon Price (Year End)||Annual % Change|
As indicated by the ICECRBN Global Carbon Price (CPW Weighted)
Source: ICE (Apr 2022)
As companies begin to treat their carbon footprints as liabilities, there will be increasing demand for environmental attributes, such as carbon allowances and carbon credits.
Managing Risk and Opportunity
Quoted markets like ICE Futures Exchanges and NYSE allow stakeholders to precisely value positive and negative externalities to:
- Manage emissions cost effectively
- Hedge climate transition risk
- Allocate capital to facilitate the energy transition and build carbon sinks
- Create an asset class for Natural Capital
- Invest in assets to meet climate obligations
Everyone is exposed to climate risk which means it needs to be measured and managed.
That’s why balancing the carbon cycle will be critical to managing the world’s carbon budget. Markets are providing greater access, liquidity and opportunity in supporting net zero ambitions.
In part two of the series sponsored by ICE, we’ll look at four motivations for using ESG data.
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