A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction by reducing the required activation energy, but which is left unchanged by the reaction. In addition to speeding up certain chemical reactions, catalysts also can be used to alter the temperature at which various reactions take place and thus make them feasible.
Nanocatalysts represent the convergence of a mature technology - catalysts - with a new one - nanotechnology. The extent of the catalyst market is not apparent to the casual observer because catalysts are mostly used in intermediate processing steps, but catalysts are a multi-billion dollar industry.
Nanocatalysts are nanoscale materials that have at least one nanoscale dimension, or have been subjected to nanoscale structural modification in order to enhance their catalytic activity. This definition encompasses a number of commercially well-established types of catalysts, as well as a number of emerging new technologies. Last year the market for these products was valued at $3.47 billion, according to Business Communications, which is publishing the report.
Commercially well-established nanocatalysts such as industrial enzymes, zeolites, and transition metal nanocatalysts accounted for about 98 per cent of global nanocatalyst sales in 2003. However, the markets for other, newer types of nanocatalysts are growing faster than the established markets. Transition metal oxide, metallocene, asymmetric (chiral), carbon nanotube and other types of nanocatalysts are expected to more than triple their combined market share between 2004 and 2009, from 2 per cent to 6.8 per cent.
The refining/petrochemical sector was the largest user of nanocatalysts in 2003, accounting for more than 38 per cent of the market, followed by chemicals/pharmaceuticals (19.6 per cent), food processing (19 per cent), and environmental remediation (13.4 per cent). Once again, it is the smaller end-user segments whose consumption of nanocatalysts is growing the fastest, particularly polymers, with an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 22.9 per cent between 2004 and 2009, energy (34.5 per cent), nanotechnology (90.4 per cent) and miscellaneous applications such as hydrophilic coatings (35.7 per cent).
All of these segments are expected to increase their share of the nanocatalyst market significantly by 2009.
However, while the market outlook for most types of nanocatalysts is favourable, the projected growth rate of the nanocatalyst market is considerably less than the growth rate forecast for the nanotechnology market as a whole. The nanocatalyst market is projected to grow at an AAGR of 6.3 per cent between 2004 and 2009, compared to 30.4 per cent for the overall nanotechnology market.