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New Method for Predicting Commercialization of Advanced Materials

January 7, 2014

New advanced materials like MOFs (metal organic frameworks), advanced high-strength steel, and carbon nanotubes have the potential to enable novel products and disrupt existing businesses.  However, material commercialization timelines are notoriously long and unpredictable. Now, Lux Research analysts have designed a tool that can help predict the commercial development trajectory of future materials.

“There is rising pressure on developers to bring novel materials to market quickly and efficiently. Yet most materials fail to meet the hype, and disappoint investors that have unrealistic timeline expectations,” said Anthony Vicari, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report titled, “Planning for Ripe Fruit: Materials Innovation Lifecycles as a Predictive Scouting Tool.”

“In looking for the next big thing, technology scouts and venture capitalists often find that 'big' requires more patience than their metrics allow, meaning that clever planning is crucial,” he added.

Lux Research analysts assessed invention-to-commercialization pathways of 49 materials and identified three key variables that strongly influence commercialization paths. They then compared specific emerging materials with a mature material with the same classification to predict the next major commercial milestone for the emerging material. Among other major findings:

·         Quantum dots are ready for takeoff in 2014. Start-ups like QD Vision and Nanosys have developed scalable solution production processes and partnered with large OEMs to use quantum dots – nanometer-scale crystals of semiconductor materials – in displays. Comparing quantum dots' path to the piezoelectric material PZT suggests commercial takeoff is imminent.

·         Sheet magnesium is following PLA's trajectory. Magnesium is lighter than aluminum and cheaper than carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs), making it highly attractive to the auto industry. Today, Posco and ThyssenKrupp are doing for sheet magnesium what Cargill and Dow did for polylactic acid (PLA) in the 1980s and 1990s – expect sheet magnesium to take off around 2017.

·         Graphene to peak in 2025. Graphene is attracting lots of attention, but faces challenges such as high production costs and dispersion issues. Comparing graphene to the high-performance polymer PEEK suggests that graphene's major commercial inflection point is still off in the future – expect graphene to begin to find widespread use in battery electrodes or conductive composites around 2025.

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