Conductive plastics are polymers which conduct electricity. They possess metallic conductivity or behave like semiconductors. Conductive plastics are a new variant of plastics with tremendous ongoing research to develop them further. It is estimated that, conductive plastics would find numerous applications across various industries. Many automobile manufacturers and aerospace engineers are studying conductive plastics in order to make them suitable for industrial applications. Conductive plastics are produced by incorporating carbon fibers, carbon nano - tubes or stainless steel fibers into plastic formulation. These dispersed fibers or nano tubes bring about the electrical conductivity effect in plastics.
The conductive polymers have the usual benefits of polymers such as moldability, ease of processing, light weight, corrosion resistance and design flexibility and in addition to these properties, they make the end product electrically conductive. These plastics find application in electronics, heavy engineering, automobiles and healthcare industry among others. The growing electronics and medical devices industry are the primary drivers of conductive plastics. Conductive plastics are a class of structural materials. They are called so because they are capable of performing several functions owing to their structure. The growing trend of owning small, light weight and smart gadgets is expected to fuel the growth of the conductive plastics market. Using conductive plastics, light weight gadgets can be manufactured, because, separate components to induce electrical conductivity would not be required if conductive plastics are used. However, conductive plastics possess poorer mechanical properties compared to traditional plastics. There is a lot of ongoing research in this field, in order to make them suited for precision processing, by enhancing their mechanical properties. This is expected to open new areas of opportunity for conductive plastics.
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Countries such as China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and India are expected to be the biggest markets for conductive plastics. These countries are the electronic and automobile hubs of the world. Use of conductive plastics in automobile sensors, batteries and switches is also expected to grow considerably over the coming years. Brazil is expected to be the emerging market for conductive plastics within the forecast period. If the technology of conductive plastics is developed to meet aerospace needs, U.S and Europe could be potential markets for conductive plastics within the forecast period.
Research and development activities are being carried out to develop conductive plastics for bio medical devices. These plastics are being studied to relay the neuronal responses to eyes and ears via implantable devices, in case of sensory damage. Goodrich Corporation, which specializes in aircraft components, is carrying out research in the field of conductive plastics to develop light weight, sturdy and conductive plastics for use in landing gears. The reduced weight due to the use of conductive plastics is expected to greatly enhance the fuel efficiency of aircrafts and automobiles. Audi sedans make use of a conductive plastic named Ultraform N2320 C from BASF to manufacture the fuel filter housing. The use of this conductive plastic eliminates the risk of electrostatic discharge and sparking as fuel flows through the filter. These plastics can be used to manufacture conductive adhesives, artificial nerves, piezoceramics, optical computers, ion exchange membranes, actuators and other automobile and aircraft components.
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The key players in this market include – Asbury Carbons, Bekaert Co, BASF, Electriplast Corporation, Ensinger, Goodrich Corporation, Nanocyl and RTP Co among others.
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