Smart antimicrobials are a class of organic or inorganic materials that achieve antimicrobial functionality through mechanisms that might be considered to be “smart.”  We take this to mean that they exhibit an inherent stimulus-response mechanism that acts in manner that is appropriate and proportional to the microbial threat.  Smart anti-microbials are of many kinds, but often fall into the class of materials commonly known as smart materials. 

All that said, the market is quite liberal about what constitutes the “smartness” in “smart antimicrobials,” and in some cases the term “smart antimicrobials” may be more of a marketing term of art than a term of substance.  While in definitional mode we note that antimicrobials may be used either as drugs or to protect surfaces and our only interest here is with the latter.  There are overlaps between the two areas, but the drug industry has a wholly different business model and market model than the one that we are concerned with here.

As the analysis in our report shows, n-tech expects smart antimicrobials to be a growing and profitable business.

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n-tech believes that self-healing materials are reaching an inflection point where they can be transformed into real and substantial businesses. n-tech believes that the road forward to widespread commercialization for self-healing will be driven by (1) better mechanisms for the self-healing process itself, (2) the emergence of novel self-healing materials with important applications and (3) a trend towards self-healing components, notably electronic components.

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n-tech Research has witnessed the progression of BIPV technologies, products and suppliers in the BIPV market over the past eight years. BIPV (building-integrated photovoltaics) now needs to be sold with an emphasis on aesthetics and its multi-functionality aspect.  The assumption behind our latest report is that BIPV is evolving to blend function and form, alongside and in place of conventional construction materials.  In other words, we are conjecturing that over the period considered in this report, BIPV will migrate to being a more mainstream and widely accepted technology.

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n-tech is seeing a maturing of the smart windows sector with electrochromic (EC) windows beginning to take a dominant role in smart windows for buildings and with potential for it to see a market expansion into the smart automotive windows space.  But we don’t see this battle as won yet. New smart windows technologies are also appearing – ranging from electrophoretic windows to “nanoblinds”  -- None of these have any market share worth speaking of at present, but in our view EC windows are not entrenched enough to be able to ward of all competition.  And in the automotive sector, SPD still has much of the market.

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As n-tech sees things the business environment associated with smart coatings is changing. In the past smart coatings represented just one of the places that coatings and specialty chemical companies searched when they were looking for new opportunities.  Today, we believe this class of coatings is one of the first ports of call visited by strategic planners at these companies.  And, as indicated below, we think that the focus on smart coatings is likely to become even more intense.

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OPV's journey to commercialization has been longer than hoped and rocky for some. What seems to have kept hope alive is that the underpinning OPV technologies and materials have seen some significant improvements in the past 12-24 months, from conversion efficiency to lifetimes. They do seem quite closer to achieving levels perceived as necessary for commercialization—and perhaps even knocking on the doorstep, if one believes the most optimistic views.

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n-tech believes that the advent of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and wearable electronics is giving the film battery business a second chance.  The IoT potentially needs billions of low-cost, small form factor batteries, which may be used in combination with energy harvesting to increase time between charges.  Wearable electronics can support higher prices for batteries than IoT but flexible, small format batteries still seem to be the order of the day.  In either case, thin-film batteries – at least provisionally – seem well suited to these needs.

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Shape Memory Polymer Markets

At the present time, shame memory polymers (SMPs) are not as widely used as shape memory alloys (SMAs). SMAs can already be considered fully commercialized in the sense that they are already widely used – in the aerospace and biomedical fields, for example – albeit for specialist, rather than mass market applications.  By contrast, activity in the SMP space is still to be found mostly – but by no means exclusively  -- in the R&D space.  That said, n-tech believes that SMPs will enable sizeable market is about to develop.

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Executives in the aerospace and defense sector are expecting 2016 to be a good year with around 3% revenue growth.  While this is hardly suggests a boom, it is much better than we have seen in this industry for a few years and should provide the confidence for the aerospace industry to fund projects in smart materials in general and smart structures in particular.

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