Conductive polymers are a member of the plastic materials family. They are lightweight, pliable, and inexpensive plastics that conduct electricity. They are known to shrink, protrude, and bend when stimulated by electricity. Conductive polymers are further categorized into inherently conductive polymers (ICPs), inherently dissipative polymers (IDPs), conductive plastics, and other conductive polymers. Conductive polymers find extensive application in antistatic packaging, capacitors, textiles and fabrics, batteries, sensors, actuators, solar cells, and organic transistors.
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Acrylonitrile -butadiene-styrene (ABS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polycarbonate, polyphenylene-based resins, polyethylene, and polypropylene together account for approximately three-fourths of all conductive polymers used. With the help of consistent R&D activities, scientists have now made a number of polymers conductive in past years. These include polypyrrole, polyamiline, polythiophene, and polyacetylene.
The increasing demand for high-performance, lightweight, and inexpensive products is driving the growth and potential of conductive polymers. Furthermore, their dimensional stability, flexibility, chemical resistance, and strength have augmented their demand in the global market. The photovoltaic industry is expected to be a potentially attractive market for conductive polymers, as they are expected to serve as an effective alternative to silicon.
Applications of conductive polymers in the photovoltaic industry include display materials, chip packaging, sensors, plastic transistors, and ultra-capacitors. Biomimetics deals with fabricating conductive polymers to resemble human muscles for the development of bio-prosthetics, and hence is another potentially attractive segment for conductive polymers. Conductive polymers are also used in the production of actuators and sensors, opening a wide spectrum of applications across different segments. Conductive polymers are also finding application in the production of light emitting diode based (LED) backlights and displays.
LEDs are popular for their low operating voltages, and non-expensive production processes. Conductive polymers are used in backlight displays of cell phones; and television screens as a thin conducting layer between two electrodes. This segment is expected to be a potentially lucrative segment in the conductive polymers market.
North America is expected to be the strongest conductive polymers market, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the global demand. Growing research and development activities related to conductive polymer technologies by major market players and supported by government initiatives have proved to be a critical market driver in the North American region. Europe is expected to be the second largest market for conductive polymers in terms of regional segmentation. End-user applications of batteries and sensors in the automobile industry are expected to drive growth of the conductive polymers market in the region, as conductive polymers serve as one of the key elements in the production of both these automotive electrical components.
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The presence of key market players such as Ormecon Chemie GmbH, Bayer, etc. is expected to be another key driving factor in Europe. Asia Pacific is anticipated to witness extensive growth over the next few years due to increasing demand for conductive polymers in applications such as textiles, capacitors, batteries, actuators, sensors, and solar cells. Furthermore, the presence of growing economies such as China and India is expected to further augment the market, on account of the expanding industrial base in the region. Latin America is expected to witness steady growth in the conductive polymers market on account of demand from end-user industries in the region. The Middle East and Africa (MEA) is anticipated to grow along similar lines, especially in growing economies like South Africa and the GCC countries.