Electroactive Polymer (EAP) is a generic term for a multitude of synthetics which share the common characteristics of changing their shape under an applied electrical voltage or charge. Technological developments in the electronics and semiconductor industries have led to the creation of polymers that change shape on the application of voltage. The biggest application for electro-active polymers (EAPs) in antistatic and electronic applications is expected to drive its market growth. Among all EAP applications market, the actuator segment is witnessing high R&D activity, and medical devices and robotics will be the largest applications of EAP actuators. Actuators and sensors open up a huge spectrum of applications in the fields of electronics, healthcare, sensing, and solar energy generation. With the growing market for each of these applications, EAP is set to become a mainstream market in the next five years. However, the technical specifications for each application differ widely, and extensive research and investments are still needed for developing application-specific EAPs. The global electro-active polymers product market is expected to be worth US$3.4 bln by 2017 and is forecast to grow by a CAGR of 7.7% from 2012-2017, as per a report by marketsandmarkets.com. North America is the largest market for electro-active polymers with an estimated 65% of the global market revenue share in 2011 and is estimated to reach US$2.2 bln by 2017. The conductive plastics segment contributed approximately 84% to the overall electro-active polymer market in 2011, mainly due to its extensive application in electrostatic discharge and electromagnetic interference. As the EAP market is still in the early phase of its growth, it presents many advantages for the early movers. Based on the applications, the global EAP Market is segmented as antistatic packaging, protection against EMI/ESD, capacitors, batteries, sensors, solar cells, actuators, organic transistors, plastics coated with electrostatic paints, and textiles and fabrics. Electro-active polymers market has been gaining importance with its major application in the areas of ESD/EMI (electrostatic discharge/electromagnetic interference), medical devices and biomimetics. The major devices used for the application of electro-active polymers are medical devices, smart fabrics, digital mechtronics, and high strain sensors.
The increasing need for greater sophistication in the automation industry and in electronics protection is driving the market for low-cost, light weight and low driving voltage materials. Advances in electronics and polymers manufacturing technology have given rise to the concept of electroactive polymers, as per Research and Markets. These polymers began to be used as base materials for motion control and protective applications as the use of mechanical moving parts reduced efficiency and increased wear and tear. When compared with conventional motion-generating devices, electroactive polymers provide equally good efficiency and lower costs and power consumption. The global electroactive polymers market was at US$1.7 bln in 2008; and is expected to grow exponentially at a CAGR of 8.3% from 2009 to 2014 mainly due to the already existing demand for new applications be commercialised in the next five years, as per Research and Markets. The electroactive polymers market is segmented into conductive plastics, inherently conducting polymers and inherently dissipative polymers. The electroactive polymers market holds a lot of scope for improved material commercialisation as it is still in its nascent stage, and as high temperature resisting polymers are yet to be developed. The expected applications of electroactive polymers, such as full-page displays and biomimetics, are expected to boost the overall market.