The Era of Intelligent Materials Throws the Commercial Spotlight on Electroactive Polymers

The global market for Electroactive Polymers (EAPs) is projected to reach US$5.2 billion by 2022, driven by developments in the field of electrochemistry and focus on sustainable development of intelligent materials.

Among the several disruptive technologies that promise to permanently alter business, society and industrial structures, are advanced materials with superior features, properties, characteristics and functions such as conductivity, mechanical strength, and self-healing capabilities. Advanced materials rather than IT technologies are disrupting society and the economy. These new intelligent and advanced materials promise to bring in disruptive benefits and radically change the manufacturing paradigm in a wide range of industries. As the world enters the era of intelligent materials, emerging over the horizon are new innovative approaches towards material design, and synthesis. Rapid advancements in technology have helped scientists to control and redesign material behavior by manipulating chemical and physical properties. Materials engineered with built-in capabilities such as sensing, actuating, energy conversion and storage etc. are poised to fuel revolutionary changes in a broad range of manufacturing and engineering related industries. At the forefront of this effervescent developments are polymers. The power of polymers and its disruptive impact in the field of material science can no longer be undermined. The ability to elicit various physicochemical changes in polymers through chemical manipulation is a truly powerful approach currently gaining in prominence. Developments in polymer polymerization, polymer degradation, polymer functionalization, and polymer modifications are unleashing the development of newer high-performance polymer materials. Deeper understanding and expanding knowledge base in synthetic polymer science has allowed material scientists and engineers to design and assemble polymers right from the molecular level.

There is growing demand for high value customizable polymeric materials and poised to benefit under the scenario is the emerging new class of materials called "Electroactive Polymers (EAPs)". Intelligent materials are defined as smart materials, active materials and/or adaptive materials that can be significantly altered under controlled conditions. EAPs, given their adaptive capabilities to respond to external stimuli, represent an emerging class of smart materials with astounding untapped commercial value. Specifically, inherently conducting electroactive polymers (ICEPs) are projected to play a leading role in the development of intelligent material science in the coming years. As smart materials of the 21st century, EAPs have numerous emerging and promising applications in aerospace, electronics, semiconductors, manufacturing, engineering, biomechanics, robotics engineering and biomedicine, among others. In the electronics sector, current application opportunities revolve around anti-static features and electrical discharge protection and electromagnetic interference protection. The emerging era of sensor networks, wireless sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technology which epitomizes collective sensing will help pave the way for EAPs to play a progressive role as an enabling technology.

The United States represents the largest market worldwide supported by emerging new applications for smart materials in shape-shifting electronics, molecular electronics, printed electronics, motion control electronics, actuators and sensors, robot lightweighting, biomimetics and biomedicine, among others. Asia-Pacific ranks as the fastest growing market with a CAGR of 9.3% over the analysis period, led by rapid industrialization, and stable economic growth of developing Asian countries.

Major players in the market include Agfa-Gevaert N.V., BASF SE, Cabot Corporation, Celanese Corporation, Heraeus Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG, Hyperion Catalysis International, KEMET Corporation, MacDermid Performance Solutions, Parker Hannifin Corporation, PolyOne Corporation, Premix OY, Rieke Metals Inc., RTP Company, Solvay SA, and The Lubrizol Corporation. among others.

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