Traditionally, materials having one or more layers of multi-phase materials that occured in two or three dimensional phases and the thickness of which did not exceed 100 nanometers per layer were termed as nanocomposites. With the passage of time and new products entering the market with a marked rise in innovation and development, the term “nanocomposites” started to include numerous systems consisting of a combination of one-dimensional, two-dimensional, three-dimensional and amorphous phases. The distinct dis-similarity of these phases at a nanoscale level affected the overall properties of the system because these properties depended on the interactions, structure and morphology of the phases when in conjunction with each other. Clay, plastics, glass, carbon nanotubes, graphene and other such materials at nanoscale sizes are some of the filler materials of preference in nanocomposites. Binder materials used in nanocomposites are usually polymeric resins, ceramics and metal powders.
Due to their physical properties, nanocomposites are used in various industries for their products. Their key role in vehicle safety and weight reduction is the major driving factor for the nanocomposite market globally. There is also a marked rise in the application of nanocomposites in building & construction. The above two factors combined with a high volume of consumption in electronics & semiconductors have been driving the market forward for nanocomposites and increasing product sales. Their high cost in certain end-user industries and applications, however, is expected to be one of the factors holding back the market. The growth of the energy sector, high importance of nanocomposites in military and defense and the growing demand for the use of bio-based raw materials are expected to be important factors for growth of the nanocomposite market for the near future.
Nanocomposites are made up of filler materials and surrounding matrix. Filler materials can be of various types. The most commonly used filler materials are nanoclay such as LAPONITE® and Montmorillonite and the market for nanoclay shows a huge demand in a global scenario. Nanoclay accounted for over 41% of the global market share by product segment in 2011. Glass fibers and metal fibers are also in huge demand and are expected to be major markets in the coming years. Other nanofibers, platelets, carbon nanotubes and graphene are also expected to show healthy growth over the forecast period.
Due to their exceptional physical properties and their versatility of application, they find diverse application bases in various end user industries. The automotive segment uses nanocomposites in the form of windshields, door paneling, headlight covers, etc. Nanocomposites are also majorly used in the aviation industry during the construction of aircraft and for replacement parts. Nanocomposites are used as bases for circuits, as conducting surfaces and other such high-end applications in electronics and semiconductors. In the energy segment, nanocomposites find numerous applications such as blades of windmills, turbines and others. Building & construction was the largest market for nanocomposites in 2011 and accounted for over 15% of the total market share. Medical & healthcare, plastics & packaging, military & defense, consumer goods, environment & water are some of the major end user industry segments where nanocomposites are used for a variety of applications.
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North America was the largest market for nanocomposites in 2011, accounting for approximately 40% of global demand. Building and construction, electronics & semiconductors and aviation were the major markets driving sales for nanocomposites in North America, making it the largest market by volumes. Europe has also shown great promise in nanocomposite sales and accounted for a large portion of nanocomposite sales. Asia Pacific and RoW are expected to be strong future markets for nanocomposites with growing industrialization and infrastructure.
Arkema SA, BASF SE, Cabot Corporation, Cyclics Corporation, DSM Somos, Elementis Specialties Inc., eSpin Technologies Inc., E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (DuPont), Evonik Degussa GmbH, Foster Corporation, Hybrid Plastics Inc., Hyper-Therm High-Temperature Composites Inc., Inframat Corporation, InMat Inc., Nanocor Incorporated, Powdermet Inc., Rockwood Additives Ltd., Showa Denko K.K., Unidym, Inc. and Zyvex Technologies are some of the major manufacturers of nanocomposites.