The Next Rare Earth Material

One of the reasons solar panels are not common-place is their creation costs. Certainly, the manufacturing costs have dropped in recent years, but it is still cost prohibitive for the average consumer. Well, the next wonder material is likely to change that for good.

Just as China controls approximately 80% of the known rare earth minerals, China is also the single largest source of this upcoming material… known as “graphene.”  I’m not going to bore you with all the science of graphene; however, if you’re into that… here is the wikipedia link.

Instead, let me share with you the investment issues.  First, researches in India have discovered how to build solar panels using graphene.  As this research develops, it is looking more likely that solar power may finally be economical.  Right now, most solar panels are silicon… which is less able to absorb light and are more expensive when compared to graphene.  The scientists’ findings were recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (which I read regularly – haha) and it articulates the cost of graphene solar panels would be approximately 1/2 of the current silicon models.  Then those crazy MIT researches figured out a way to make more graphene more quickly… once again reducing costs.

Second, graphene may also be used as a replacement for the silicon that has been used to make transistors for over half a century.  Graphene transistors promise to make electronic devices work faster and use less power.

The uses are almost endless… so much so that the discovery of graphene won the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics.  And China is not the only reserve of Graphene… those good old Canucks are sitting on some too.

So, what companies are working with this new up-and-coming commodity?  Here’s a few you may want to consider:

Northern Graphite (NGC.VN); CVD Equipment (CVV); GrafTech International (GTI); China Carbon Graphite Group (CHGI)

Have you ever heard of graphene?  Are you likely to look into this a little further?  I know I am…

  1. We’re not at a point where we manage our investments yet, (okay, so we’re not at a point where we invest anywhere other than my work retirement account, yet) but as a consumer, this is definitely something I will be following.

    • I hear you… it’s a process that begins with just a little capital and a reliable resource. Thanks for dropping in again.

  2. Greetings,
    I read about researchers at MIT coming up with a new twist on an old idea – generating electricity from heat. The MIT team took the thermal PV concept and added nanotech sized layer of tungsten to the front of the cell – when the tungsten is heated, it emits infrared light that is then used by the cell to create electricity. The cell is tuned to be most efficient at the exact wavelength of infrared light that the tungsten emits.

    • Excellent… thanks for the contribution. Your comments are reason, again, for investors to consider tungsten stocks within their portfolios.

  3. I’d be just as interested in using a solar panel made of the material as in the companies that make it. Anything to help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

  4. I would love it if the cost of solar panels came down enough to make them an ordinary part of construction (as they are even now in some parts of Arizona).

    I’m not an early adapter in these situations – I want to see the material in use for some time. I realize I may miss out on some growth by doing so, but I’ve seen a lot of promising products introduced over my life with companies that didn’t go anywhere with them!

    • Absolutely… I think many people would adopt a more “green” approach if it was reliable and cost effective. You make a great point… start up types can be a challenge for investors and a profitable experience too. But there’s no need to rush into anything. Thanks for commenting.

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