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Silica Aerogel Market Overview
The global silica aerogel market valued 273.0 million in 2015 and is projected to advance at a CAGR of 31.1% during 2016–2022. The market is expected to witness growth on account of the high adoption of silica aerogel for various applications. The material is light and eco-friendly, offers high thermal insulation, and has a wide application base. Further, it can potentially substitute conventional insulation material for the manufacturing of clothing for low temperatures.
GLOBAL SILICA AEROGEL MARKET SPLIT BASED ON VOLUME BY FORM (2015)
Aerogel is a porous, lightweight polymer foam produced from an organic or inorganic predecessor. The sol–gel polymerization, which converts monomers into a colloid solution called sol, is a conventional technique used in aerogel manufacturing. When the sol particles combine, they form a semi-solid gel. On the other hand, a solid aerogel is produced when the solvent is displaced from the wet gel via air, but the gel structure is not broken down. Aerogel has a nanostructure, comprising particles as well as pores, which are even smaller than the wavelength of the visible spectrum. The nanostructure gives the aerogel optical, thermal, and acoustic properties.
On the basis of application, the silica aerogel market is categorized into oil and gas, building insulation, industrial, aerospace and defense, transportation, and others. Among these, the oil and gas category held the largest market share in 2015. Oil and gas companies face numerous challenges in the form of oil sands, arctic environment, and deep/ultra-deep waters, which continue to increase. Thus, there is a shift in focus toward more-efficient insulation systems to fight such challenges as well as adhere to environmental regulations.
During the forecast period, the building insulation category under the application segment of the silica aerogel market is expected to grow at the highest rate in value terms, with 33.7% CAGR. Silica aerogel helps residential and commercial real estate companies to meet the rising demand for energy-efficient buildings.
On the global front, North America accounted for the largest revenue and sales volume in the silica aerogel market in 2015. The U.S. was the largest consumer of silica aerogel, and the market here is expected to progress at a high rate during the forecast period. This can be attributed to the extensive research and development (R&D) being carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on silica aerogel. Owing to its lightness and exceptional thermal insulation property, silica aerogel was utilized by NASA for the Mars Exploration Rover mission. Further, the agency is working toward reducing the manufacturing cost to make silica aerogel viable for commercial purposes.
Silica Aerogel Market Dynamics
Thermal insulation systems are constantly being improved with the aim of reducing primary energy consumption, globally. Silica aerogel has the potential to replace traditional conventional insulation materials, including fiberglass, mineral wool, polystyrene foam, polyurethane foam, and cellulose. Silica aerogels that have low thermal conductivity (0.015 watts per meter kelvin) offer more advantages than regular materials used for thermal insulation. Further, their ability to transmit solar radiation better is of great importance in the construction sector. Additionally, owing to their transparency, they can be used in windows and skylights for insulation purposes, thus providing architects the freedom to reimagine and reinvent architectural solutions. Such advantages of the material are widening the scope for its adoption, further supporting the growth of the silica aerogel market.
Different forms of silica aerogel are available in the market to meet the wide-ranging demands of the oil and gas sector. Their installation process is easy and swift, which results in a decrease in the price paid to installers and fabricators. Further, these also offer exceptional thermal performance, apparent in their longer cooldown time and low capital cost. Properties, including enhanced thermal insulation and lightness, make silica aerogel apt for use in high-capital sectors, such as defense, aerospace, and oil and gas. The key market players are, therefore, focusing on making the technology more advanced in order to decrease the manufacturing cost and make it commercially viable for use in the textile and healthcare industries and domestic housing applications such as daylighting. Thus, technological advancements continue to drive the growth of the silica aerogel market, globally.
The high production cost of silica aerogel is the key factor impeding the growth of the silica aerogel market. Gelation, modification, and ambient pressure drying (also known as supercritical drying) are the three stages of the silica aerogel manufacturing process. The supercritical drying process is extremely essential and the most expensive stage in the aerogel manufacturing process. Even after taking all precautions, mistakes in the drying process can destroy the aerogel, thereby leading to elevated manufacturing costs.
Moreover, most aerogels are brittle and friable (can get pulverized), due to which aerogel cannot have structural applications. Further, aerogels are solids with low density, categorized by large pores and high porosity, measurable in nanometers. Due to the large volume of pores, these materials have poor mechanical properties, which restrict their adoption, thus hampering the growth of the silica aerogel market.
Silica Aerogel Market Competitive Landscape
Some of the major players in the global silica aerogel market are The Dow Chemical Company, BASF SE, Aspen Aerogels Inc., Cabot Corporation LLC, Aerogel Technologies LLC, Svenska Aerogel Holding AB, JIOS Aerogel Corporation, Ocellus Inc., and Maero Tech Sdn Bhd.