Market Report on the Global Market for Carbon Nanotubes announces that a new market research report related to the Nanotechnology industry is available in its catalogue.

The Global Market for Carbon Nanotubes

Nanotechnology can be described as manipulating the attributes of matter at the nanoscale to create products with new functionalities at the macroscale. Through the exploitation of these new functionalities, nanoscale technologies can help to solve some of the key challenges facing society today. Nanotechnology is not a market per se. Rather; it is an enabling technology for the development of both:

  • New opportunities within existing markets;
  • Entirely new markets.

At present, nanotechnology is a niche area but few industries are currently not be affected by its influence. Nanotechnology promises more for less: smaller, cheaper, lighter and faster devices with greater functionality, using fewer raw materials and consuming less energy. Nanotechnology offers immense promise; promise which extends from specific business opportunities for individual firms to societal benefits for the world at large. Yet for these benefits to be realised, the products and processes that are renewed or made possible by nanotechnology will need to reach the supermarket shelf or the factory floor.

Nanoscale technology is not new; the word “nanotechnology” has been used by scientists and engineers over many years to mean different things. Polymer scientists, for example, would consider colloid science as a nanoscale technology. Material scientists would expect that much of the future development of structural, functional, multifunctional and bio based materials would almost certainly be at the nanoscale.

What is new is our understanding of the novel properties that can occur at the nanoscale, which is improving significantly through developments in measurement and characterisation. This has led to a drive to exploit the observed novel properties such as an increased surface activity, quantum effects beginning to dominate the behaviour of a material exhibiting changes of magnetic, optical, and electronic properties, and the ability to self assemble. Nanoscale materials have one or more dimensions between ~1nm and 100nm, with one or more specific properties of:

  • High surface area and hence high surface activity
  • Quantum effects becoming dominant (such as a change in optical, magnetic, or electrical properties)

Materials that have one dimension in the nanoscale include layers such as thin film coatings. Materials that have two dimensions in the nanoscale include nanowires and nanotubes. Materials that have three dimensions in the nanoscale include quantum dots and nanoparticles. Nanoscale materials can be incorporated into a final component or system (for example nanocomposite materials incorporating carbon nanotubes into a polymer matrix or nanoparticles in cosmetics). “Free” two and three dimensions nanomaterials such as nanotubes or nanoparticles in the form of powder and nanomaterials containing two and three dimensions nanomaterials such as nanocomposites are the most concern when considering potential health and safety issues both in a product through its life and within an occupational setting.

These materials are usually manufactured using different techniques to those of bulk materials and require new processes to be developed using a combination of top down techniques, such as etching and grinding, and bottom up techniques such as electro-spinning and self-assembly. To understand material properties and to achieve quality control in manufacture, measurement is key; new techniques and tools are constantly required. Examples include the Atomic Force Microscope and technologies for in-line and on-line measurement.

Usually, a nanoscale material or component will need to be integrated into a final product to realise its value. Examples include electronic devices such as sensors and displays, healthcare devices such as imaging systems, and diagnostic tools. In their widest sense, nanoscale technologies have been used by some industries for over a century. In the semiconductor and chemicals sectors for example, increased knowledge of the relationship between the structure and properties of nanoscale materials has enabled the production of materials and devices with higher performance and increased functionality.

This progress has taken place steadily over many years and the influence of nanoscale technologies on industry, thus far, can be described as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Also evident is the current production rates of nanoparticles and nanomaterials, which are still small in comparison with current production rates of more conventional materials. Sectors in a position to become early adopters of nanoscale technology are those that are dependent on:

  • Advanced materials,
  • Sophisticated analytical tools and
  • High specification devices enabled by advanced electronics.

There is a rich base for the commercialisation of new technologies, and many opportunities for developing collaborations across sectors for common development. However, it is also important to consider at what stage of development particular applications are; whether they are strongly rooted in the academic world, are being developed by business, or are already in the marketplace.

The three generations of nanoscale technologies can be described as:

  • 1st generation-passive nanoscale technologies, e.g. antibacterial coatings, controlled release drugs
  • 2nd generation-active nanoscale technologies, e.g. moving towards multifunctional sensors and self assembly within components
  • 3rd generation-active systems of nanoscale technologies, e.g. more than one active nanoscale technology within a system.

Current exploitation is very much within the 1st generation, dipping into 2nd generation technologies. Overall the move is towards materials and systems with increasing functionality and multifunctionality. There are already at least several hundreds of products on the market incorporating nanomaterials.1 Many more are in the pipeline and can be expected to enter the market in the near future. Over the coming years and decades, nanotechnologies will continue to make an impact on manufacturing and service industries; on electronics, information technology; and on many other areas of life, from medicine to energy conservation.


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