Nanoscale Chemicals and Materials
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Published: December 2010
Nanoscience as an enabling technology is opening up an increasing number of applications in a wide range of industries. The interest in nanotechnology has been fueled in large part by visions of molecule-sized machines, nanoscale computers, nanoscale electronics, nanoscale manufacturing with self-assembly capabilities (i.e., bottom-up manufacturing) and nano-based medical cures. The push in nanotechnology research is occurring worldwide, with a large number of corporations, new start-up companies and research institutions studying potential applications.
This report focuses on the technology, products, markets and applications of nanoscale chemicals and materials including:
- Nanosize metal oxides and ceramic materials (silica, TiO2, aluminum oxides, zirconia)
- Nanosize metallic materials (iron, cobalt, silver, gold)
- Carbon-based nanomaterials (fullerenes, carbon nanotubes and nanofibers)
- Polymeric nanomaterials (dendrites, hollow and solid polymeric nanospheres)
The market is dominated by the established uses of nanomaterials, and nanosize silica particles in particular. Innovative nanomaterials in new application areas account for only a small part of today's nanomaterial market and this is not expected to change fundamentally in the next five years. Traditional nanomaterials in their established uses will continue to dominate the market.
Spectacular growth rates are expected in the field of carbon nanotubes and nanofibers; however, their share in the global nanomaterial market will remain in the low percentage range.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of the major nanomaterials in use today:
The largest market for nanomaterials is in use as functional fillers in polymers. This market is dominated by precipitated silica. To a lesser extent other metal oxides and silver nanoparticles are used for special purposes. Use of precipitated silica is established in polymers; accordingly, growth will be in line with the expected global growth of the polymer markets in the forecast period.
CMP slurries and other abrasive uses in the electronics industry is the second-largest outlet for nanomaterials. This market is dominated by colloidal silica. To a lesser extent, nanosize aluminum oxide is used and for special applications, nanosize ceria is used. The market is expected to grow in line with the overall growth of the electronics industry.
Various uses of colloidal and fumed silicas constitute a large segment, for thickening/thixotropizing agents in lacquers, pastes and resists; antisettling agents in zinc dust primer; stabilizing of suspensions and emulsions in drilling fluids and diamond suspensions; and reinforcement in silicone rubber. Silica is the main nanomaterial used in this category, as the established product in its main applications. The growth of nanomaterials in this sector is expected to parallel the 5% average growth for the global industry in the forecast period, but the other nanomaterials included in this category will certainly have a larger growth potential.
An important application segment for nanomaterials is in the area of low-temperature multilayer ceramic capacitors. The market is dominated by barium titanate nanomaterials used as the main raw material for the ceramic dielectric layer. In addition, nickel powder (as well as precious metal powders in the size range 100 nanometers to one micron) is being used, and in the future, particle sizes of these materials may be further reduced.
The cosmetics market for nanomaterials is essentially made up of colloidal silica and silica gel, with its various uses in cosmetics, and in smaller volumes by zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for sun protection purposes. An overall growth rate of about 4% annually results from the expected global growth of cosmetics production and the established uses of nanosize silica, adjusted by the stagnation or even declining use of nanoparticles in UV protection, as a result of concerns about the negative effect of nanomaterials on human health.
Silver, aluminum, titanium dioxide, aluminum oxide and other nanomaterials are being used in engineering materials, mostly for coatings. The largest share in this sector comes from established uses: scratch-resistant coatings for automobiles, metal coatings for glass, and self-cleaning surface coatings. Growth is expected to be in the same range as the expected growth of the global industry in the forecast period.
The recent global economic decline has affected major segments involving nanoparticles, especially in the automotive, construction, and electronics sectors. By some estimates, these three segments account for about one-tenth of the U.S. GDP. Allied markets that participate in the supply/value chain for these segments were also impacted significantly. Nanoceramic materials play an important part in the automotive and construction industries and were among the nanomaterials hit very hard during the recent recession. Nonetheless, because of their role in diverse applications, the recovery is also expected to be rapid.