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Published: December 2011
Nitrile elastomers are copolymers of an unsaturated nitrile (acrylonitrile) and a conjugated diene (usually butadiene). Nitrile rubber (NBR) has the distinctive feature of high resistance to oils (aliphatic hydrocarbons) over a wide temperature range. NBR is also noted for high strength and excellent resistance to abrasion, water, alcohols and heat. Disadvantages include poor dielectric properties and poor resistance to ozone and strong oxidants.
During the last couple of years, the market for nitrile elastomers was predominantly influenced by the worldwide economic crisis in 2008/2009 and recovery of the markets in 2010. During 2011, recovery of the markets slowed, especially in North America and Europe. Japan's recovery in 2011 was also slowed by the massive earthquake and tsunami in that year.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of nitrile elastomers:
Market volumes in 2010/2011 in North America and Europe are still well below precrisis levels. In North America and Europe, market growth is forecast to increase at below or along with GDP rates during 2011–2016. The market for nitrile elastomers is growing predominantly in Asia at an average annual rate of 4–7%, especially in China.
The largest consumer of solid NBR rubber is now China. The market for hydrogenated nitrile butadiene rubber is still concentrated in the most industrialized countries—North America, Europe and Japan. The most dramatic growth in nitrile latex consumption has been in Malaysia and other East Asian countries. During the last few years, Malaysia has become the global center of the latex dipping/glove manufacturing industry. Malaysia is now the world's largest producer of natural rubber and nitrile (synthetic rubber) gloves, with a global market share of about 60%.
Global consumption of nitrile rubber and nitrile latex is forecast to increase at an average annual rate of 3% per year through 2016. The highest growth is forecast for China (6% per year), with sluggish growth in Japan (1%), the United States and Europe (1–2% per year) through 2016.