A large number of players are already present in the global carbon nanotubes market. Showa Denko K.K., Cnano Technology Ltd., and Nanocyl S.A. are the top three players in this market and had held a collective market share of only about 23.3% in 2014, revealing a highly fragmented market where small regional players hold the majority of the market revenue.
Transparency Market Research finds that the high level of fragmentation is caused due to the low level of product differentiation, which invites new entrants to easily make their mark in the carbon nanotube revenue stream. However, they will still face many problems including high capital requirements, high switching costs, and the overall scarcity of raw materials.
Another point that carbon nanotube manufacturers have in their favor is the low threat of substitutes, which are still only in their nascent stage.
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Massive Carbon Nanotube Demand from Polymer Industry for Reinforcing Polymer Materials Boosts CNT Sales
Carbon nanotubes provide significant improvements to the strength of polymers and enhancing their utility in the industries of construction, aerospace, defense, and automotive. Carbon nanotubes add to the mechanical strength and tensile strength of polymers and makes them roughly 20 times stronger than steel. Additionally, carbon nanotube-imbued polymers are much lighter than steel. The culmination of these points makes such polymers highly sought-after in the above industries.
Other areas where the introduction of carbon nanotubes adds highly positive points to materials is displays. Most displays are conventionally coated with indium tin oxide, which ends up making them brittle and even more expensive than screens with carbon nanotube-based films. Similar consequences are visible in the use of carbon nanotubes in the production of long wind turbines, an area where high strength and low weight can exponentially improve power generation potential.
High Cost of High Purity Carbon Nanotubes Holds Back Market Growth
“Chemical vapor deposition is the most common manufacture technique used for carbon nanotubes,” explains a TMR analyst. “This method makes use of hydrocarbons for raw materials and metal catalysts confined within a reactor. Once the carbon nanotubes that are formed deposit on the metal surfaces, it is necessary to separate the nanotubes from the metal which is considered an impurity after manufacture. This is a highly complex process and takes up a major chunk of the total manufacturing expenditure of a company.”
The overall production cost of high purity carbon nanotubes is much higher than the cost of the actual manufacturing process itself and poses as a barrier for many players due to financial constraints.
The problem complicates itself even further as currently, there is a much smaller demand for carbon nanotubes than the global supply for it. However, TMR analysts expect this demand to rise significantly over the coming years, and manufacturers should shift their capital accordingly.
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Polymers to Retain High Demand for Carbon Nanotubes till 2023
A bit more than 68% of the total volume of carbon nanotubes produced in 2023 are expected to be consumed by the polymers industry, owing to the high demand for lightweight composites in electronics, aerospace, and defense industries.
In terms of revenue, the global carbon nanotube market is expected to progress at a highly optimistic CAGR of 22.1% within a forecast period from 2015 to 2023. This market is expected to be valued at US$1.6 bn by the end of 2016, and US$6.8 bn by the end of 2023. In terms of volume, this market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 20.1% within the same forecast period.
Most industries prefer multi-walled carbon nanotubes, allowing this product segment to hold an expected volume share of 92.1% in 2023.