Declining prices of nanomaterials and composites will contribute to growing demand for nanocomposites by 2020, according to a recent study by Cleveland-based The Freedonia Group.
The research firm forecasts demand for nanocomposites will increase from 154 million pounds in 2005 to 344 million pounds by 2010. By 2020 demand for nanocomposites is expected to grow to more than 7 billion pounds with a value nearing $15 billion.
Packaging and automobiles, two key early markets for nanoclay and nanotube composites, will account for nearly 40% of demand in 2020. Auto manufacturers are turning to nanocomposites to replace higher-priced materials, increase production speed of parts and reduce automobile weight in several exterior, interior and under-hood applications.
Nanocomposites also are expected to become key ingredients in many key packaging applications, including soft drinks, beer, food, pharmaceuticals and electronics.
Near-term growth will be fastest for higher-priced resins such as engineered plastics and thermoplastic elastomers. In the long term, nanocomposites based on commodity plastics, such as polypropylene, polyethylene and PVC, will dominate the market, according to the report.
Nanocomposite technology will benefit these low-cost resins the most because they enable commodity polymers to replace more-expensive engineered plastics and specialty resins, the report states. Although most current demand is in thermoplastic resins, thermoset-based nanocomposites will account for more than 20% of demand growth.
Unsaturated polyester will become the primary thermoset used in nanocomposites as nanomaterial additives will increasingly enhance or replace glass fiber-reinforced materials in many markets.