Keywords: nanotechnology markets, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food industry, textiles, automotive industry, construction industry, forecasting, commercialisation, nano-enabled products
Nanotechnology in the market: promises and realities
Nanotechnology is one of the key research areas of the 21st century affecting several different disciplines and industries. Amongst leading scientists there is growing awareness about the tremendous impact this field will have on society and the economy. It is forecast to become possibly even more important than for example the invention of the steam engine or the discovery of penicillin. However, the vast amount of research projects associated with nanotechnology makes it increasingly difficult to distinguish between promises for future products and real applications that are already in the market. The situation is even more complicated by the fact that nano is not a protected and well-defined term. Therefore it is also misused for marketing purposes of non-nano products. This paper is intended to contribute to a clearer picture about scientific developments and subsequently commercialised nanotechnological applications. In order to deliver a cohesive review, the focus was laid on six nanotechnology fields relevant for end-consumers (pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food, textile, automotive and construction). For the database search, a working definition was devised to discriminate nano from non-nano applications. In the present paper both scientific background information and market data about the nano-enabled products are presented, to reach the goal of combining economic analyses and chemical insights into nanotechnology. The results show that some commercialised technologies have several application fields, whereas others are only found in one market. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that regarding turnovers the pharmaceutical sector is currently the most important of the six considered nanotechnology markets, but all of them are expected to grow significantly in the future.