Nanocomposites are a class of composites that have at least one component with nanoscale dimensions or structural features. Nanocomposites have been used commercially since Toyota introduced the first polymer/clay nanocomposite auto parts in the 1980s. Recently, advances in the ability to characterize, produce and manipulate nanometer-scale materials have led to their increased use as fillers in new types of nanocomposites. Manufacturers now mix nanoparticulate metals, oxides and other materials with polymers and other matrix materials to optimize the composite's properties with respect to color/transparency, conductivity, flame retardancy, barrier properties, magnetic properties and anticorrosive properties, as well as tensile strength, modulus and heat distortion temperature. These composites offer users significantly enhanced properties compared to conventional composite and non composite materials. Global consumption of nanocomposites has increased significantly since BCC Research published its last market analysis in early 2012, reaching 190,562 metric tons (MT), with an estimated value of over US$1.2 bln in 2013. Nanocomposite consumption is growing rapidly, and is expected to reach close to 584,984 MT by 2019. Such rapid growth has raised expectations regarding nanocomposites' commercial potential. BCC Research reveals the global market for nanocomposites is expected to grow to US$4.2 bln by 2019, with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24%. The market share for the clay nanocomposite category is expected to increase to 60.2% by 2019. Meanwhile, carbon nanotube composites' share should drop to 13.5%,and metal/metal oxide nanocomposites' share is expected to reach 7.7% of the market. Automotive parts, packaging and electronics were the main nanocomposite applications on a worldwide basis in 2013, with 51.4%, 22.5% and 13.8% of the market. By 2019, automotive parts' share should drop to 40.6%, while electronics' share drops to 8%.
As per Research and Markets, increased importance for vehicle safety and weight reduction has been the major driving factor for the nanocomposite market globally. A significant increase in the application of nanocomposites in building & construction has also been one of the major factors contributing to growth of the nanocomposites market. Combined with a high volume of consumption in electronics & semiconductors, the market for nanocomposites has been showing increased product sales in the past few years. High cost of certain products that are necessary in certain end-user industries has been one of the factors holding back the market for nanocomposites.
The global nanocomposites market is estimated to reach 1.5 bln lbs by 2017, as per a report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. Growth will be primarily driven by rising levels of government participation in R&D funding especially in developing countries, increased role of private venture capitalists, technology advancements in production processes, falling prices, and waxing demand for high strength structural materials across a broad range of end-use markets. With the potential to meet the needs of sophisticated applications in the modern world, nanocomposites represent a healthy market. Strong opportunities are expected to stem from the plastics industry wherein small addition of these nanocomposites to different polymers via in-situ polymerization or melt compounding more than doubles the heat resistance, electrical conductivity and dimensional stability of plastics, thus expanding its use. For instance, clay nanocomposites, and nanocarbon fillers are being used in the manufacture of plastic bottles to enhance the shelf life of beverages like beer. As a matrix to which nanoparticles are added as fillers to improve the properties of a given material, nanocomposites that aid in improving the properties of thermoplastic resins will witness special growth. As more and more research centers, universities and companies across the world increase their scale of research activities in plastics nanocomposites, successful commercialization of nanocomposites will create new avenues for growth in the plastics industry. The automotive industry has and will continue to remain major revenue generating end-use application for nanocomposites. Polymer nanocomposite, as a new class of multiphase materials, will especially witness sturdy gains driven by the growing focus of auto majors on reducing fuel consumption through reduction in vehicle weight, enhancement of engine efficiency and reduction in vehicular emissions. Future application areas span the use of polymer nanocomposites in the manufacture of door inners, body panels, head lamp covers, engine covers, and windows, among others. Elastomeric nanocomposites will find increased use in the manufacture of tires.
Growing demand for nanocomposites is fuelling the demand for nanotubes as filler nano materials. Carbon nanotubes-based electronics and semiconductor applications are expected to witness tremendous demand in the years to come. With their exceptional physical, thermal, and electrical conductivity properties, carbon nanotubes will offer new business opportunities for these end-use sectors. In electronics sector, short-term growth is principally anticipated from memory, sensor, and display segments. Carbon nanotubes are also being used in the production of superior quality flat panel displays. Memories consisting of nanotubes, in combination with SRAM and Flash, are capable of providing enhanced services, particularly for mobile phones, laptops, and PDA markets. Carbon nanotubes are also widely used in coatings, epoxy and thermoplastic systems. They are also used in sporting goods, which require high tensile strength. Given the growing number of applications for carbon nanotubes and projected rise in its demand over the next few years, carbon nanotube manufacturers across the globe are forecast to increase their production capacities in the upcoming years.The European debt crisis and the surrounding fears over its playout have until now failed to impact the nanotechnology and advanced materials industries. Order influx, production and sales continue to post encouraging growth despite the challenges related to availability of financing for investments and capital funds. German companies remain especially optimistic about future business outcomes than companies in other EU countries. Even with the euro crisis going unsolved into the first quarter of 2012, the market is expected to hold on steady, primarily supported by the determination of players in this space to stay on the cutting edge despite the debt crisis and an uncertain economy. Companies, especially in high-end, expensive, advanced technology markets like nanotechnology are responding differently to the crisis as compared to the 2007-2009 recession, which witnessed significant drops in investments. This time around, companies in Europe are keen on retaining their focus on research and development, given the growing realization of the fact that competitors especially from developing Asian countries are coming in stronger as a result of globalization and the scale of innovation needs to be maintained if claim to new riches in untapped market sectors needs to be successful.
As stated by the new market research report on Nanocomposites, by Global Industries Analyst, the United States represents the largest market worldwide. The country is forecast to grow at a sturdy CAGR of 10% over the analysis period. While the US and Europe will continue to remain major geographic markets for the foreseeable future, strong growth is forecast to stem from the rapidly developing Asian market. Nanotechnology in Asia-Pacific is expected to grow substantially over the years, thanks to the steady investments in this space. Governments in Asia-Pacific have embraced nanotechnology with vigor and dedicated public sector funds mobilized in this space are relatively higher in comparison to other regions.
Major players in the marketplace include 3M ESPE, Arkema Group, BASF SE, Cabot Corporation, Cyclics Corporation, DSM Somos, Du Pont (E.I) De Nemours & Company, Elementis Specialties Inc., eSpin Technologies Inc., Evonik Degussa GmbH, Foster Corporation, Hybrid Plastics, Industrial Nanotech Inc., Inframat Corporation, InMat Inc., Nanocor Incorporated, Nanoledge SA, Nanophase Technologies Corporation, Powdermet Inc., Showa Denko K.K., Rockwood Additives Ltd., TNO, Unitika Ltd., Zyvex Technologies, among others.