The Most Significant Advanced Materials News from 2020
Dec 02, 2020 Dr Richard Collins
2020 has been one of the most turbulent years in recent history. Not a single country or industry has been unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact will be felt for years to come. Despite this, there have still been some notable industrial activity and commercial progression within materials science. IDTechEx provides a round-up and highlights some of these key developments.
Mergers and Acquisitions
A reasonably large amount of M&A business activity has taken place throughout 2020. Showing the pandemic's impact on the aerospace sector, Woodward and Hexcel canceled their merger in April; this would have created one of the largest aerospace and defense companies.
In more positive news, and in IDTechEx's opinion, one of the most understated but important pieces of news was Cabot Corporation's acquisition of Shenzen Sanshun Nano New Materials (SUSN) for ca. $115m completed in April 2020. SUSN are a CNT manufacturer and the fact that the largest producer of carbon black is making this move now shows the upcoming impact from MWCNTs. This is predominantly a result of the booming potential for lithium-ion batteries and is also being observed with Cnano's financial performance and LG Chem's 2020 announcement for a large investment of their capacity in 2021 from 500 - 1,700 tpa. The MWCNT market will consolidate as very high-volume production and orders are established; IDTechEx believes we could be looking at the 3 companies that will come to dominate the market. Learn more about the CNT market in the IDTechEx Research report "Carbon Nanotubes 2021-2031: Market, Technology, Players".
Initial Commercial Adoption
All new materials are looking for their first significant order; this can be a long time coming with extensive testing, development, and evaluation of the value-add.
There have been a few significant orders over the course of the year but perhaps the most notable is Kyulux starting to ship TADF OLED materials to Wisechip Semiconductor Inc. In a similar field, OTI Lumionics secured strategic investment from LG Technology Ventures; they state that their cathode patterning material is now ready for mass production, and the first shipments were anticipated to begin before the end of the year.
We have already seen key MWCNT news, but CNTs are a diverse family and the SWCNT/DWCNTs variants have also had a significant 2020 for commercial adoption. OCSiAl opened their production facility, Henkel and Chasm Advanced Materials announced a strategic partnership for their conductive inks, but most notable is that the first Nantero CNT NRAM product from Fujitsu Semiconductor was stated to be due by the end of 2020.
Significant Intended Orders
Letters of intent (LOI) do not guarantee success but are a very positive sign, particularly when coupled with other market activity for the company in question. One of the most exciting from 2020 for advanced materials is for graphene-enabled supercapacitors. Skeleton Technologies have had a highly eventful 2020 as they near significant market adoption: raising EUR 41.3m in a Series D funding round, announcing a partnership with Wrightbus, and signing a EUR 1bn letter of intent with an automotive manufacturer.
Funding and Expansions
Despite the difficult financial year, there have still been funding rounds completed and expansions planned; some are discussed above and there are many more that could warrant a whole article to themselves, such as Kebotix, Carbice, Nanotech Energy, and Arris Composites. NanoXplore also opened the first part of their large scale graphene powder production plant, giving a capacity of 4,000 tpa.
One that is to be highlighted, with both funding raised and an expansion planned, is from the 3D printing industry. Equispheres raised $30m (CAD) in April and stated to IDTechEx that they intend to have a 50 tpa plant online in 2021, increasing to 75 tpa by 2022 of aluminum powders for additive manufacturing. The additive manufacturing field is still in its infancy, and as well as hardware and software developments it needs to expand the materials portfolio; aluminum is certainly a key requirement for any future success.
Impact of Artificial Intelligence
An exciting area has been from AI, with data-centric approaches to progress materials science R&D, some companies implementing this have already been mentioned. Japanese organizations have been some of the most prominent in this adoption, for example, Asahi Kasei has made some significant improvements and stated they plan on considerably increasing their number of data science workers into 2021. There was also a new alliance, called the AI-Accelerated Materials Discovery (A3MD), announced in September including LG, Total, and key university institutes.
InoBat Auto are a company that use Wildcat Discovery Technologies' process of combining AI and high throughput experimentation for battery developments. In 2020, the company announced the acquisition of an R&D site and a new cell chemistry based on their process.
Summary and Conclusions
As seen, it has remained an active year for the development, adoption, and expansion of advanced materials. IDTechEx covers numerous advanced materials and key emerging technology verticals throughout their research. For further information on Advanced Materials research, visit www.IDTechEx.com/Research/Materials and for more information on the full portfolio of research available from IDTechEx visit www.IDTechEx.com/Research. Sample pages are available for all IDTechEx reports.