Nanotechnology is gaining more and more interest even in the financial community. From a commercial point of view nanomaterials and nanotools - that cover for example analytical instruments and to some extend, equipment for the semiconductor industry are already in the market or have the best opportunity to be commercialized soon.
At the beginning of the value chain are materials. A good example for a currently rapid development are carbon nanotubes. The success or failure of carbon nanotubes depends on their market applications. Carbon nanotubes could play a pivotal role in the upcoming nanotechnology age if their remarkable electrical and mechanical properties can be exploited. Nanotubes offer significant advantages over most existing materials such as carbon fibers including unimagined strength-to-weight ratio, attractive mechanical properties and very interesting field emission properties. Mass market applications include the reinforcement of polymer nanocomposites and field emission displays. Nanotube molecules might line up to form a light, strong wire or a composite that could be unbeatable as a material for making lightweight vehicles for space air and ground. These figures of merit may be realistic but in terms of cost are yet commercially unattractive. However, recent developments indicate a technology breakthrough which allows a mass production of carbon nanotubes. Several predictions indicate that the global production increases from the few kilogram range to more than 100 tons this year. Furthermore, a significant price reduction is expected.
In general, the term nanotechnology is badly defined and useful market figures - with a few exceptions - do not exist so far. An interesting part is the borderline between microsystems and nanotechnology. In certain microsystems applications - e.g. for hard disk drive heads based on giant magnetoresistance read heads - nanotechnology plays already a significant role in a multi-billion dollar market place.