Although the hype surrounding polymer nanocomposites has been in full-throttle for over a decade, so far the market for these new materials has been relatively slow to develop. However, as commercial interest has moved beyond pilot programs and niche applications, it appears that nanocomposites are finally ready for a breakthrough in markets such as motor vehicles and packaging. By 2011, nanocomposite demand will more than double, reaching 300 million pounds as per Reportlinker.com. Growth will be fueled by declining prices of nanomaterials and composites, as production levels increase and technical issues concerning the dispersion of nanoadditives in the compounds are overcome. By 2025, it is expected that nanocomposites will be a US$9 billion market, with volumes nearing five billion pounds.
While thermoplastics currently comprise virtually all demand for nanocomposites, compounds based on thermoset resins will eventually become a substantial part of the market - 20% of demand in 2025. Over the near term, the most rapid gains will be seen in higher-priced resins such as engineering plastics, in applications where the additional cost of nanomaterials is not a critical factor. Looking forward, however, nanocomposites based on commodity plastics, such as polypropylene, polyethylene and PVC, will dominate the market. Among thermosets, nanocomposites will make the strongest impact as enhancements for reinforced polyester and epoxy compounds.
Packaging and motor vehicles, two key early markets for nanocomposites, will account for nearly half of total demand in 2011. However, by 2025, electrical and electronics applications will gain in prominence, as nanotube-based composites will penetrate a sizable portion of the market as a substitute for other conductive materials. Construction will emerge as a significant market as nanocomposites begin to replace fiber-reinforced plastics in a number of applications.
In 2006, nearly all nanomaterial demand consisted of carbon black in conductive composites. However, as material and production costs of clay-based nanocomposites fall, clays will rise to account for over half of all nanomaterials demand by volume in 2025. Similarly, a decline in price will enable the rapid commercialization of carbon nanotubes, which will eventually gain over 60 percent of the nanocomposite materials market in value terms.