The global silicone elastomers market
will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2% from 2019 to 2024. This high CAGR is due to the fact that silicone elastomers are expanding into new and relatively unsaturated markets across the next five years in key applications including automobiles, electronic equipment, medical and dental devices.
Global demand will rise from 495,500 tonnes in 2019 to reach 668,100 tonnes in 2024; with growth especially strong in twin-pack room temperature silicone vulcanising (RTV2) and liquid silicone rubber (LSR) elastomer systems.
In the short term silicone elastomer producers must face the problem of an historic lack of investment in production capacity for siloxane – the starting block for silicone elastomers. The result of this has been rising silicone elastomer prices and in particular shortages of high-consistency rubber (HCR), the most important type of silicone elastomer.
China has long held a strong position in siloxane production, but now many smaller producers have been closed down by authorities, because they do not comply with the latest local environmental regulations. This is leading to a continuing serious shortfall. This will be eased towards the end of the Smithers five-year forecast period as several new large-scale investments in production capacity – announced in 2018 and 2019 – come on line in both China and Europe.
In spite of this short-term challenge, Smithers’ latest market report, The Future of Silicone Elastomers to 2024
forecasts that there will be multiple new applications for these materials. Among the key challenges are developing better heat and chemical resistance, especially for the automotive segment for wider use in under the-bonnet (hood) applications; including in the next generation of electric vehicles. The main material competition over this time will continue to come from thermoplastic elastomer formulations.
Smithers’ analysis identifies the following emergent market opportunities for silicone elastomers through to 2024:
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- Stretchable sensors for smart textiles – Modified polysiloxanes can be used to produce high-melt strength films that can be integrated into intelligent clothing to provide feedback and extra functionality to the use.
- Wearable tech revolution – Liquid silicone elastomers, including those with a strong colour gamut andphosphorescent colours; will continue to benefit from rising demand for smart watches and similar wearable technology devices.
- Bacteria-killing elastomers – Healthcare, laboratory and food industry applications are posied to benefit from a new suite of silicone elastomers with antimicrobial. Medical devices present the greatest potential, though this segment will demand the highest grade of elastomer; and will face long expensive testing and certification processes.
- High refractive index silicone elastomers – Formulations with a high refractive index will continue to see burgeoning demand as lighting systems continue to move to LED-based illumination; with an emphasis on purity and performance of the elastomers supplied.
- Electric vehicles – Batteries in automotive drive systems require protection from heat, greases, dirt and other contaminants – and silicone elastomers are a strong solution as they can combine this with electrical insulation. The wider use of full electric and hybrid vehicles will serve to strengthen demand in this area.
- Conductive silicones – Adding electrical conductivity to a silicone elastomer’s inherent durability and heat/chemical resistance is a solution increasingly being pursued by electrical device designers. It is essential to calibrate these to the device’s specification and function, and to gauge this against the performance requirements, especially if higher price fillers, such as copper or silver are employed.