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Carbon Nanotubes: Technologies and Global Markets

Among the numerous categories in the evolving field of newly synthesized nanomaterials, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are perhaps among the most dynamic and undergoing the most rapid pace of development. The past 5 years have witnessed relentless growth in the research, development, and technological understanding of these remarkable materials. Universities, small businesses, and start-ups, as well as large corporations, have continued to probe and exploit numerous commercial possibilities. ( )

The most tangible evidence for growth and interest is reflected in the emergence of new CNT producers now capable of offering the materials in commercial-scale quantities – in kilograms, tonnes, and even hundreds of tonnes, depending on the specific grade – at more affordable and increasingly competitive unit pricing.

The value of the carbon nanotubes market was valued at an estimated $104 million in 2009, and is expected to increase to $167 million by the end of 2010. Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 58.9%, it’s projected to be worth nearly $1.1 billion in 2015. The multi-walled segment has the largest share of the market at an estimated $161 million in 2010, and is expected to increase by 2015 to nearly $866 million, for a 5-year CAGR of 53.1%. The few-walled segment is valued at an estimated $6 million in 2010, but is expected to increase at a CAGR of 139.7% to reach nearly $63 million in 2015. The segment with the greatest projected 5-year rise in value is the single-walled, which is expected to grow from $250,000 in 2010 to $125 million in 2015, for a CAGR of 372.9%.

Today, the CNT-polymer composites market is by far the largest product consumer of commodity-grade multi-wall carbon nanotubes (MWNTs). It is predicted to expand significantly. This is spurred by the promise of increased lightweight-strength and exceptional electrically-conductive characteristics of CNTs used, for example, in automobiles, sports equipment, and wind turbines. For these applications, uniform dispersion of MWNTs in the host matrix material will be especially critical. Eventually, further impetus is expected by the looming possibility of penetrating the aerospace sector. Breakthroughs in other matrix composites as well as smart network sensors are among other strong market contenders.

This comprehensive technical and business assessment on the current status of the CNT industry should prove informative to nanomaterials manufacturers, investors seeking near-term commercialization opportunities, technologists confronted with nanomaterial device integration issues, and companies interested in exploiting revolutionary nanomaterials for advanced composites, biomedical, electronic, energy storage, membrane separation, sensing, and security applications.

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