THE EMERGENCE OF GRAPHENE | FACT VS. FICTION
Before I start introducing the new wave of revolutionary automotive protection technology, I think it's felicitous to take you through a brief evolution of paint protection, and how we managed to leap from ceramic and polymer-based coatings to something as outlandish as graphene.
Since the late 1990's, the coating industry had taken a commanding presence in the way of automotive paint protection. What most of the westernized world doesn't know is that ceramic and polymer coatings were pioneered by the Japanese. At around the same time, Dr. David Ghodoussi, CEO of Optimum Polymer Technologies, had finished a great deal of research and development and subsequently introduced Opti-Coat Pro into the United States market. It was in 2001 that Optimum Polymer Technologies took the lead in automotive paint protection, thereby creating a frenzy of activity in the detailing world. Shortly thereafter, everyone else started to follow suit, and it was more or less a complete domino effect and a never-ending competition to see who would turn out on top.
Of course, with a domino effect comes the philosophical battle of fact versus fiction. As such, e-Commerce and social media had since taken over and now dozens upon dozens of people concocted their own branding and called it a "coating". These days, at least within the last 5 years, everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon by creating a fancy bottle and claiming it to be a form of impenetrable armor. Some relatively new companies have already aggrandized their marketing strategies by conducting various "tests" by abusing paintwork (i.e., lighting hoods on fire, creating deep gouges with a knife to paintwork, indiscriminately waving spray paint) to test the coatings' resiliency. The question is, "Is seeing really believing?" Personally, I don't think I can take anymore misleading advertisements.
From a chemistry standpoint, any ceramic-based form of protection is typically solvent-based, which in turn is designed to last for a longer period of time versus it's counterpart of si02-based products which are temporary solutions. Not all ceramic-based products contain si02, and not all si02-based products can be labeled as a ceramic. Essentially, there are two levels of coatings, one for the consumer or DIY-enthusiast and the other is strictly for professional use. When the word "ceramic" came into the picture, it was a dubious proposition and everyone started to question its authenticity. With time, professionals then started to educate the consumer and the category became a household name.
Now that brings us to the new wave of technology that is graphene. Separate from the automotive protection industry, graphene has actually been tested and used since 2004. Believe it or not, graphene stretches across a wide spectrum of industries, and is currently being used by Tesla in improving the overall efficiencies in battery production. So, what is graphene and what differentiates it from the long-standing traditional coatings that we know of today? First and foremost, we have to understand what graphene is from an organic point of view. In it's purest form, graphene is a form of graphite, much like that of a ceramic-based structure containing concentrated amounts of silicon-dioxide.
The biggest differentiator is that graphite, by nature, is more or less two-dimensional in the sense that it's notoriously thin in application. Atomically speaking, it forms a tight lattice-like structure and is incredibly dense in shape. Now try and put this into perspective, an ounce of graphene can cover the length of an entire football field. Of course, research and testing will most likely change over time, but one layer of graphene is all that's needed for a resilient form of protection.
Layering is not needed, and as it stands, there are some companies that claim this form of protection produces stronger hydrophobic properties (i.e., water-beading, water repellency) better resistance to the elements and chemical-etching, and contains legitimate self-healing characteristics that activate without the assistance of heat. As a matter of fact, there are manufacturers that have already produced their form of a graphene coating. I've had the opportunity to test a few of them myself, and at this time it's difficult for me to post a review simply because forming an opinion on this category of product takes time.
When weighing the pros and cons, graphene may soon come to the forefront of the detailing world, but the beauty is that it will serve as a long-standing form of protection against its ceramic-based counterpart that we've known for quite some time. In other words, the protective properties will continue to remain strong making the disintegration process much slower. It's important to note that all of this should be taken with a grain of salt since this category is still premature. Is it all hype? Perhaps, but time will tell. Is it exciting? Absolutely.