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After more than a decade of promise and speculation created by their unique properties, nanotubes are establishing a presence beyond university laboratories and corporate research and development (R&D) centres.
Current commercial applications include motor vehicle fuel system components and specialized sports equipment. In the short term, world demand for nanotubes is expected to expand rapidly from this small base to more than $200 million in 2009. However, a number of issues, including high costs, inadequate purity levels, and insufficient product yields in manufacturing, still need to be addressed. As these issues are resolved, growth in global nanotube demand is expected to accelerate and surpass $9 billion by 2020. These and other trends are presented in World Nanotubes, a new study from Freedonia.
Electronics applications will offer the earliest significant commercial outlet for nanotubes, and will remain the largest market for the foreseeable future. Nanotubes can be used in a multitude of electronics applications, including interconnects, displays, memory, storage and others. Flat panel displays for both computers and televisions are expected to be the first widely commercialized application. Over the long term, a number of even more ambitious applications should emerge. Nanotubes’ conductive properties could enable them to supplant conventional semiconductor materials in a broad range of applications. Although such a shift is at least a decade (or more) away, in the interim nanotubes will be used to augment and improve silicon-based technologies by allowing for more powerful semiconductors with smaller features.
The US will remain the largest national market for nanotubes, due to its diverse, technologically advanced economy and leading position in nearly every projected major outlet for nanotubes, including high-end electronics, pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, aerospace and defense equipment, and construction materials. However, the US is projected to account for a smaller share of nanotube demand than for nanomaterials overall, due to the importance of the electronics market, which is dominated by Asia. Japan is a smaller nanotube market than the US, but is projected to be larger than any other nation, and is also the leading investor in R&D on a per capita basis. Many of the EU member states, as well as South Korea and Taiwan, have substantial R&D programs, typically involving government funding and participation by the private sector and academia. A number of developing nations, most notably China, will become increasingly important, as high-end electronics production shifts to these regions.
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