Boron nitride, wurtzite structure. Credit: Wikipedia.

A global markets research firm, Global Industry Analysts, issued a new study explaining how demand for boron nitride and boron carbide sustained some growth during the worst of the recession and is expected to experience more rapid growth in the immediate post-recession years ahead.

In a news release from GIA, the study’s authors explain that in the 2008 period and the subsequent slump in the housing and construction sectors, demand for borate declined because of a sharp decline in glass orders. Nevertheless, they explain, the problems in that sector were “largely offset by the increased demand for fiberglass during the same period.” (The news release does not make the direct connection between the borate market and the global boron nitride and boron carbide markets. The implication is that the glass industry dominates and drives the demand for borate raw material and smaller markets for borate are hostage to it.)

But, GIA says the future looks good. It says strong demand from fiberglass manufacturers will continue, as will demand from makers of ceramic devices, electronics and refractory coatings and others. GIA also expects suppliers to benefit from a steady increase in construction activity plus technology advancements and innovative applications in end-use markets will prompt rapid expansion.

Geographically, GIA says that suppliers will see strong demand growth for borate in Europe and developing nations. For example, the authors say demand for borate in China will be linked to that country’s glass and ceramic industries, but China also has significant domestic supplies.

GIA identifies several advanced ceramic applications, such as cubic boron nitride because of its hardness, high thermal conductivity and low thermal expansion. GIA predicts increasing substitution of CBN for diamond materials in applications such as razor blades, wear-resistant parts and tools, print/record heads and hard disk coatings, commanding a lion’s share of the diamond and diamond-like films & coatings market, are the three major end-use market segments.

GIA also predicts that CBN will be joined by polycrystalline boron nitride for use as rugged tools for cutting, grinding and machining.

GIA profiles 29 of the leading players in this business, including Ceradyne Inc., ESK Ceramics GmbH, Denki Kagaku Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha, Electro Abrasives Corp., H.C. Starck GmbH, Momentive, Mudanjiang Jingangzuan Boron Carbide Co., Saint-Gobain Advanced Ceramics Corp., Shin-Etsu Chemical Co., Showa Denko, Sumitomo Electric Hard Metal Corp. and Washington Mills Electro Minerals Company.