A ten-fold increase in 15 years? Nano hype and promise will duke it out.

April 16, 2010

While market demand has not yet matched the considerable hype that nanotechnology has generated over the past decade, nanomaterials have managed to attain an appreciable commercial presence in recent years, according to a new report from The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

In its World Nanomaterials study, The Freedonia Group, says that global nanomaterial demand will continue to rise, posting “robust” 21% annual gains to $3.6 billion in 2013. By 2025, nanomaterials are expected to reach over $34 billion in sales, having still only scratched the surface of their immense market potential. While the outlook for nanomaterials is generally bright, a number of potential complications threaten to throw a monkey wrench into the industry, including some technical issues such as agglomeration of nanotubes in plastic composites, which are still a challenge, notes the new study. Futhermore, concerns about the safety and environmental effects of nanomaterials may be impediments to commercial success.

Many of the initial uses for nanomaterials that have had the greatest commercial impact have involved relatively low-tech materials and applications. These include nanoscale versions of conventional materials, including silica, alumina, titanium dioxide, clays and metals such as gold and silver. In the next decade or two, however, some of the relatively novel nanomaterials, particularly carbon nanotubes, will account for a larger share of overall nanomaterial demand.

While health care was the second largest market for nanomaterials in 2008, it is expected to overtake electronics as the leading outlet in 2013 and beyond, says The Freedonia Group’s study. Nanomaterial-based pharmaceuticals, which include nanoscale drug delivery systems as well as nanosized drug active ingredients, have enjoyed a significant degree of commercial success to date. In the future, it is expected that nanomaterials will expand from pharmaceuticals into other medical product and health care applications, including diagnostics, imaging and dental care. mpweditorial@cancom.com

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