22 July 2003
22 July 2003
After a decade-long buildup, nanotechnology is beginning to see its first commercial successes, although basic materials are grabbing the spotlight from more sensational early projections of cancer-killing nanobots and self-assembling automobiles.
The development of nanoscale materials (i.e., substances with particle size between 1 and 100 nanometers) is a key step in the eventual production of more sophisticated nanomachines, nanoelectronics and nanomedical devices. In fact, the move toward nanotechnology is a continuation of ongoing miniaturization efforts in many industrial sectors. Research has flowed in two directions: reducing the size of existing manufacturing materials such as metal oxides through the use of new production technologies, and developing entirely new materials such as nanotubes and buckyballs that are intrinsically nanosized. These and other trends are presented in Nanomaterials, a new study from The Freedonia Group.
The US market for nanomaterials (which totaled only $125 million in 2000) is expected to surpass $1 billion in 2007 and reach $35 billion by 2020. Early growth will come from numerous niche applications that span the entire US manufacturing sector. These include wafer polishing abrasives and high density data storage media for the electronics industry; improved diagnostic aids for the medical community; transparent sunscreens, stain-resistant pants and wear-resistant flooring for consumers; cost-cutting equipment coatings for the defense industry; fuel-saving components for the auto industry; and better paper and ink for the printing industry. In the long run, however, the best opportunities are expected in health care and electronics, which together are expected to comprise nearly two-thirds of the market by 2020.
Conventional products -- essentially smaller versions of extant products, such as silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide and clay -- are expected to register robust growth both through the forecast period and beyond. Already, these materials have established a market presence in such applications as sunscreens and chemical mechanical polishing (CMP) slurries. Conventional nanomaterials will account for the large majority of overall demand for the foreseeable future. However, new nanomaterials -- many of which are yet to be commercialized -- are expected to register even better growth, from a negligible base in 2002. Carbon nanotubes, the likely anchor product of the new materials category, are finding use now in specialty composites and in fluoropolymers.
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