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Nanotechnology Business Trends Analysis, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

¹ Video Tip
For our brief video introduction to the Nanotechnology industry, see plunkettresearch.com/video/nanotechnology.
 
Nanotechnology is a relatively new materials science that is slowly beginning to revolutionize many sectors of manufacturing. The long term outlook is exceptionally promising. Only a small number of consumers or business executives realize the extent to which nanotech is going to change the materials they use every day. As of 2015, so much progress has been made in nanotech research and development that commercialization is accelerating broadly. One factor boosting the adoption of nanotechnology is an increase in the manufacture and availability of carbon nanotubes, a basic nanomaterial that can be used in a wide variety of manufactured goods. These nanotubes have been shown to have highly valuable qualities, including incredible strength, extremely light weight and high conductivity of electricity. As nanotube supplies increase and costs drop, use will increase significantly.
Investment in nanotechnology research and the market for nanotech products have expanded steadily. The U.S. government alone proposed $1.488 billion in nanotech research grants and projects for fiscal 2015. This was up significantly from only $0.464 billion in 2001. This budget aids the industry primarily through grants made via the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. However, many other agencies receive research funding through this budget, including Homeland Security, Agriculture, NASA, the Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency. This diversity of research interests is an excellent indicator of the fact that nanotech will eventually permeate virtually every segment of business, industry, transportation, food production and our daily lives.
Estimates of the size of the market for products containing nanotechnology components or ingredients vary widely. The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative estimated the global market would be $2.4 trillion in 2015. (This is the total revenue from the products—including nanotechnology and other components.) Nanotechnology is clearly coming of age.
The Japanese and Chinese governments are among the nations in the top ranks of nanotech funding. Meanwhile, the European Nanotechnology Trade Alliance (ENTA) boosts the nanotech industry in Europe, where funding is very substantial, and Asian governments from Singapore to South Korea and Taiwan are big supporters as well.
Nanotechnology is generally defined as the science of designing, building or utilizing unique structures that are smaller than 100 nanometers in size (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter). This involves microscopic structures that are no larger than the width of some cell membranes. A human hair is about 50,000 nanometers in diameter. In particular, nanotech may involve the manipulation of materials on the molecular or atomic level so that they take on new characteristics, such as increased strength or resistance. (“Nano” comes from a Greek word for dwarf or pygmy.)
Nanotechnology has applications in fields such as semiconductors, biotechnology, solar power, chemistry, automotive systems, apparel, coatings, robotics and aerospace. The result will be new ways to solve problems and create products based on the use of micro components.
Over the next few years, the fastest-growing commercialized uses of nanotechnology will most likely be in coatings, including advanced paints used in extreme environments; specialty chemicals; aerospace; electronics; pharmaceuticals and other health care technologies; and textiles. As the technology matures, many more uses will be commercialized.
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (www.nanotechproject.org) listed 1,628 items in its latest inventory of consumer products that have a nanotech component, up from only 209 products listed in their initial March 2006 inventory. The list includes health and fitness items (such as cosmetics, sunscreens and sporting goods), food and beverage products, home and garden items and electronics and computer products.
MEMS, another branch of technology involving extreme miniaturization, refers to a very exciting field in microelectronics. Specifically, we define MEMS as “Micro Electro Mechanical Systems,” micro-scale structures that transduce signals between electronic and mechanical forms. Both MEMS and nanotech are vital to the long-term trend of greater and greater miniaturization of electronics and other systems.
Estimates of the size of the MEMS market vary. Analysts at research firm Yole estimated the global market for MEMS devices at $15 billion for 2015, and $22 billion for 2018. Research firm IHS forecasts substantial growth in demand for MEMS due to the expansion of remote wireless sensors and devices connected to the Internet, often referred to as the Internet of Things or IOT. This niche MEMS market could reach $340 million by 2018 in direct and indirect impact.
MEMS technology is widely utilized. A common use of MEMS is in the micro switch installed in airbags in automobiles. These MEMS switches must be accurate enough to determine when, and at what level of strength, a collision occurs, and then set off the inflation of the air bag quickly enough to protect passengers before the collision’s impact reaches them.
 
Internet Research Tip: The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
See www.nanotechproject.org, an interesting web site, for two tools:
1)    An entertaining and highly informative “Learn about Nanotechnology” section.
2)    Their “Inventories” lists of consumer products containing nanotechnology components and much more.
 
MEMS are becoming more sophisticated. Where in the past each MEMS unit focused on one feature, today’s MEMS often contain a combination of sensors such as pressure, accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. This is being driven by the growing use of MEMS in advanced mobile devices.
A continuing stream of advances in nanotechnology and carbon nanoscience is pouring forth from the world’s top universities and commercial laboratories. Firms that are deeply involved include IBM, which recently announced a potential breakthrough in using nanotech to destroy drug-resistant bacteria in human patients; Intel, which is using nanotech to dramatically increase the potential speed and power of microchips; and BASF, the world’s leading chemicals maker, which is relying on nanotech to dramatically increase the qualities of its specialty chemicals.
Soon enough, nanotechnology will enable the high capacity batteries (that will power the electric automobiles of the future), extend the shelf life of foods, enhance the targeted delivery of powerful drugs and create the ultradense computer memory needed for high speed computing. One of the more exciting developments is the recent discovery of graphene, an incredibly strong, thin carbon material that is the world’s best conductor of electricity.
 


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