Behind the buzz and beyond the hype:
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Posted: Oct 20, 2011
Global carbon nanotubes market - industry beckons
(Nanowerk Spotlight) Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have recently emerged
as one of the most important classes of nanomaterials
having enormous potential to spark off the next
industrial revolution. CNTs' unique and extraordinary
properties such as extremely high electrical and
thermal conductivities, very small diameters (less
than 100 nm), large aspect ratios (length/diameter
ratios, greater than 1000), outstanding mechanical
properties, a tip-surface area near the theoretical
limit (the smaller the tip-surface area, the more
concentrated the electric field, and the greater the
field enhancement factor)1 and an excellent price-performance
ratio, make it an ideal candidate for
electronic devices, chemical/electrochemical and biosensors,
transistors, electron field emitters, lithium-ion
batteries, white light sources, hydrogen storage cells,
cathode ray tubes (CRTs), electrostatic discharge
(ESD) and electrical-shielding applications.
several products enabled by carbon nanotubes are
already in the market, such as racquets, golf clubs,
surfboards, ice hockey sticks, mass transportation
fuel system components, battery electrode additives,
plastics additives and masterbatches. MWCNTs-enabled
engineering and specialty thermoplastics
such as polycarbonate (PC), Polyetherimide (PEI),
and Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) have been used in
cleanrooms for the production of computer chips and
hard drives, because they dissipate static electricity
and, therefore, will not attract airborne contaminants.
More than 100 companies around the world today are
manufacturing carbon nanotubes and this number
is expected to increase to more than 200 within
the next five years, while there are more than 1,000
companies and institutions that are actively engaged
in CNTs Research and Development (R&D).
carbon nanotubes account for a 28% market share of
overall nanomaterials demand. In terms of production
capacity, Asia-Pacific leads, followed by North America
and the European Union. Table 1 shows CNTs-enabled
applications grouped as present, near term and long
term, and as categories related to large volume and
limited volume segments and their key attributes.
Table 1. Summary of CNTs-Enabled Applications. Adapted from the paper on "Potential Applications of Carbon Nanotubes" by P. M. Ajayan et al.2
This article looks at the market size, applications,
processing technology and end-user products of
carbon nanotubes. In addition, the study looked at industry leaders in the value chain, potential
applications, products which are under development
and are likely to enter the market in the next five to
ten years. For this study, we have surveyed industry
professionals/stakeholders in the CNTs value chain,
extracted information from our proprietary in-house
databases/ inter-linked databases as well as researched
other primary and secondary sources and triangulated
data and the findings are presented in this article.
The market size findings are based on the analysis
carried out by the CKMNT's teams. We present here an
excerpt from the upcoming market research report titled
"Global Carbon Nanotubes Market".
The global CNTs market is highly consolidated
and oligopolistic in nature, dominated by a few large
suppliers/producers operating in multiple industry
segments. The global CNTs industry turned over
around $668.3 million in 2010, with multi-walled carbon
nanotubes (MWCNTs) production value of approximately
$631.5 million and single-walled carbon nanotubes
(SWCNTs) production value of around $36.8 million,
and is forecast to grow to $1.1 billion by 2016 at a
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10.5%.
across a wide range of industries including plastics and
composites, electrical and electronics, and energy as
well as a range of industrial sectors, CNTs have become
an essential ingredient or reinforcement material for
these industries, with its usage growing broadly in line
with the global economy.
Fig. 1: Next five years forecast (2011-2016) for global CNTs market.
The production capacity of
CNTs has increased significantly in the last five years,
nowadays hundreds of tons are produced to meet the
market demand. CNTs market is on the upswing with
lowering costs and improving performance, availability and end user adaptability. Table
2 shows major carbon nanotubes
producers and their annual
production capacity for 2010. It is
also to be noted that there are a
number of MWCNT producers other
than those shown in Table 2 such
as Nanocomp Technologies Inc.
(NCTI), USA, Eden Energy Limited,
Australia, Iljin Nanotech, South
Korea, NanoCarbon Technologies
(NCT) Ltd., Japan, Ube Industries,
Japan etc., but they have not been
included here as their production
capacity is less than 50 MT annum.
Only about 25% of the global CNTs
production capacity was produced in
2010 while average production at full
capacity is estimated to be about 40-
50% in 2016. At the end of the 2010
calendar year, production capacity for CNTs reached an estimated 2,500 metric tons and
is expected to exceed 12,800 metric tons in 2016 at
a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 32.5%
(Fig. 1). During the same year, Asia-Pacific accounted
for the largest share of CNTs production at 1122.6 metric
tons (44.2%), ahead of North America at 740.1 metric
tons (29.2%) and Europe at 608.5 metric tons (24%).
Asia-Pacific has the largest installed capacity of CNTs
mainly due to the significant presence of electrical &
electronics market, which is dominated by Japan, South
Korea, Taiwan, China and Singapore. In 2010, the US
captured the first largest share of the CNTs market while
Japan ranked second, ahead of China and Germany.
Japan is the prominent leader in the production of carbon
nanotubes including MWCNTs and SWCNTs, but China
and South Korea are expeditiously catching up.
Among the European Union, France is expected to take the lead
in CNTs production. A number of developing nations,
most notably China and India, will become increasingly
important, as high-end plastics & composites and
electronics production shifts to these regions.
Table 2: Major Carbon Nanotubes Producers and their Annual Production Capacity for 2010. * Nanocyl also produces SWCNTs and DWCNTs, but on a smaller scale.
In the next
five years, the proposed production capacities for CNTs
are bound to take a big leap forward. MWCNTs production
capacities will reach nearly 12766 metric tons by 2016,
mainly driven by polymers and composites applications
in automotive components, aerospace structural
parts, lithium-ion battery, Electrostatic Discharge
(ESD) and other markets, while SWCNT's growth will
be steady but not as high as in the case of MWCNTs,
due to higher prices and limited end-user adaptability
such as electrical & electronics market.
CNTs market is facing a huge gap between demand and
supply due to low volume utilisation of CNTs by end users.
In order to bridge this gap, manufacturers should
be ready to capitalize on that future demand, which is
expected to grow rapidly over the next five to ten years.
Demand is growing for CNTs used in the production of
technology-intensive products. The expanding range
of applications includes electronic packaging, touch
panels, automotive parts, industrial components,
medical devices, racquets, golf clubs, surfboards,
ice hockey sticks, mass transportation fuel system
components, battery electrode additives, plastics
additives and masterbatches. Carbon nanotubes
encompass a wide range of markets across plastics
& composites, electrical and electronics, energy and
The largest share of global CNTs is accounted
for by plastics and composites with sales of $472.9
million in 2010, representing 69% of the market (Fig. 2).
Plastics and composites will remain the most significant
markets through to 2016. Electrical and electronics
industries accounted for 10% of the CNTs market share
followed by energy (8%). The electronics and data
storage market is likely to see the biggest penetration
by 2016, with the performance-enhancing properties of carbon nanotubes allowing electronics manufacturers
to meet demanding market needs across a variety of
applications, including interconnects, displays, memory,
storage and others. The energy sector will also witness
rapid growth, with enhanced performance requirements
for batteries, wind turbine blades, photovoltaic cells and
other applications in the next five to ten years.
Fig. 2: Global CNTs market by industry.
CNT's demand is influenced by a number of diverse
factors. While the economy plays a most important
role in influencing the size and growth of the market,
there are a number of other market drivers which can
be seen as having a direct influence on CNTs demand
or, at any rate, the nature of this demand, irrespective
of the performance of the economy. These include:
Need to replace the brittle and expensive Indium
tin oxide (ITO) coated films currently used in such
products as LCD displays, solar cells, touch screens,
and organic light emitting diode (OLED) lighting with
flexible and mechanically robust CNT-based films.
Alternative materials to carbon black for electrostatic
discharge applications in the automotive market. Any
automotive components that come in contact with fuel
must have electrostatic discharge properties and the
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommends
a maximum specific volume resistance of 106 ohm/
cm for materials used for parts with fuel contact.
As an additive or reinforcement material for
plastics (automotives & structural components)
and composites (aerospace/defense) industries
in conductive and thermal applications. The higher
aspect ratio of CNTs in plastic parts enables to
achieve reasonable conductivity at modest loadings.
Due to the unique conducting and semiconducting
properties of CNTs, market demand for CNTs
has increased for CNT-FETs memory devices,
interconnects etc. as a replacement for state-of-the art
The increased demand for longer wind turbine blades
(> 60 m), better performance and quality are pushing
the use of CNTs. Longer blades are subjected to
higher mechanical stresses during operation (due to
the unsteady nature of the wind). Weight reduction
is also a key factor because weight increases faster
with blade length than energy throughput. Carbon
nanotubes are an ideal choice because of their high
impact strength and tubular structures, which enable
to withstand high mechanical stresses as well as
provide strength, and their light weight maximizes
the lifetime and efficiency.
Burgeoning demand for advanced and
sophisticated medical and healthcare devices.
Despite more than 100 CNTs manufacturing
companies, the majority of the market share (66%) is
held by four relatively large-scale manufacturers (Fig.3).
Plastics & composites, fuel line systems, batteries,
electrostatic discharge, and field emission devices are
the most prominent and commercially viable current
applications. Next generation products will be adopting
CNTs in nano electromechanical systems (NEMS),
supercapacitor electrodes, power transmission cables,
structural composites applications for aerospace and
automobile sectors, photovoltaic devices, transparent
conducting films, field-effect transistors, interconnects,
flexible electronics, and drug-delivery systems, which
will yield greatly increased revenues for the CNTs
players over the next 5-10 years. International industrial
giants such as IBM, Intel, Hexcel, Samsung, NEC Corp.,
Renault, Yonex, EcoloCap Solutions, and Hunstman
Corp. are developing a variety of current and future
CNTs-enabled applications for various industries.
Fig. 3: Global CNTs market by major players.
Prices for CNTs are expected to fall by an average of
about 15% over the next five years as large companies begin to produce commercial-scale volumes of CNTs
as well as expanding CNTs production capacity. For
example, Arkema's 400 ton/year plant is scheduled for
startup in 20113 while Bayer MaterialScience AG has
envisioned to build an industrial-scale production plant
with an annual capacity of 3,000 metric tons by the
financial year 2012-20134. Large multi-nationals such as
Showa Denko K.K, Arkema Inc., Toray Industries, and
Bayer MaterialScience AG have significantly ramped
up production levels. In addition to capacity expansion,
companies in China and Russia are also producing
significantly cheaper carbon nanotubes.
The most widely used techniques for CNT synthesis
are: Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD), Catalytic
Chemical Vapor Deposition (CCVD), arc discharge and
laser ablation. In 2010, CVD and CCVD techniques
together captured approximately 83% of the global
carbon nanotubes market share, followed by arc
discharge (12%) processing method and laser ablation
(5%), primarily due to its high degree of control, easy
scalability, large-scale production output, high purity and
yield compared to other available technologies. As for
large-scale production of carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs),
Morinobu Endo developed Catalytic Chemical Vapor
Deposition (CCVD) continuous process, wherein metal
catalyst (iron particles), benzene (for the pyrolysis), and
Ar/H2 gases are fed from the upper end of a vertical
furnace, and the resulting CNTs are collected from
the lower end while the furnace temperature is kept
at 1100°C5. In 2003, Prof. Morinobu Endo, Faculty of
Engineering, Shinshu University, and Showa Denko K.K.
established a joint venture for the commercialization of
There are over a hundred companies around the
world in the carbon nanotubes market, making it
extremely competitive. The major players such
as Arkema Inc., Showa Denko K.K., Nanocyl
S.A., Bayer MaterialScience AG, Hyperion
Catalysis International Inc., and Thomas Swan
are building commercial levels of capacity and
bringing prices down significantly. Established
manufactures may have excellent market and
cost advantages due to their proprietary product
technology, favorable access to raw materials,
government subsidies, favorable locations,
and learning or experience curve efficiencies.
Product know-how is a key factor for success in
CNTs. Most recently, producers have increasingly
focused on the production of multi-walled carbon
nanotubes, with significant efforts being directed
towards purity and yields as well as lowering the
costs. The main markets at present are plastics
and composites, electrical and electronics and
energy. These will remain the most significant
markets through to 2016.
However, a number of issues, including high costs,
inconsistent quality across the supply chain, dispersion
and compatibility with matrix materials, and toxicology
still need to be addressed. Once these issues are
resolved, growth in global CNTs demand is expected to
accelerate in the next five years.
Note: A comprehensive Report on "Global Carbon
Nanotubes Market" is slated to be released by CKMNT
in the future. Interested readers may contact info@
ckmnt.com for further details.
1. "Production and Applications of Carbon nanotubes,
Carbon nanofibers, Fullerenes, Graphene and
Nanodiamonds: A Global Technology Survey and
Market Analysis", February 2011, published by
Innovative Research and Products, Inc
2. M. Endo, M. S. Strano and P. M. Ajayan, "Potential
Applications of Carbon nanotubes" Topics in Applied
Physics, 111(2008) 13-61
3. web link no longer exists
4. web link no longer exists
5. M. Endo, "Grow Carbon Fibers in the Vapor Phase",
American Chemical Society, ChemTech,18 (1988)
By Vivek Patel, Centre for Knowledge Management of Nanoscience and Technology (CKMNT). For more information, interested readers may please contact Vivek Patel at email@example.com.