Conductive Polymers

Published - Oct 2003| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS043A
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Report Highlights

  • The electroactive polymer market reached about 130 million pounds in 2003. Rising at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 9.8%; this market is expected to cross 200 million pounds in 2008.
  • The market currently is dominated by conductive plastics, but over the next five years, ICPs will increase their market share in volume, and, more dramatically, in dollar value.
  • ICPs will rise at an AAGR of 33.4% to over 15 million pounds in 2008, with a value of some $600 million.
  • By contrast, conductive plastics will continue to rise at an AAGR of 8.7%, exceeding GDP, but less than ICPs and will reach 190 million pounds in 2008.
  • Organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) currently are the largest ICP application.



The major objective of this report is to analyze electroactive, or conductive, polymers both inherently conductive polymers (ICPs) and traditional conductively filled thermoplastics in terms of their competitive scenario in specific applications. Another goal is to develop a reasonable scenario for ICP markets outside of its competitive posture vis-à-vis traditional conductively filled thermoplastics.


Conductive polymers, best described as electroactive polymers, comprise groups of materials, which include conductive plastics, ICPs and very highly specialized polymers with both electrical and/or optical characteristics (electro-optic polymers).

Conductive plastics are made from traditional thermoplastics containing fillers that render them conductive, while ICPs conduct electricity on their own, and electro-optic polymers develop optical characteristics under influence of an applied electric field.

Although conductive plastics mimic conductivity of metals (particularly copper and steel), insulative resins employing a conductive filler (e.g., metal or carbon powder, or fiber) achieve a measure of conductivity. However, there are generally compromises in terms of processibility or performance, or total part economics. Thus continues the search for alternate conductive plastics such as ICPs.

By the mid-1990s, commercialization of ICPs was still in its infancy. Production of these materials had been scaled up from grams to pounds, but overall global production and consumption totals were still negligible.

Even though several major companies had given up on ICPs, researchers and other commercial and educational institutions were pushing ahead. Literally hundreds of papers and patents on ICPs are published each year. Clearly, there are a great many scientists and corporations who are still optimistic about significant commercial successes of ICPs and, indeed, usage has increased over the last five years.

Electro-optic polymers (EO polymers) are further removed from commercialization than ICPs. However, there might be greater potential in the long term for EO polymers, compared with those of ICPs, because optical applications may be more far-reaching than electrical uses.

Clearly, there is a need for an objective appraisal of ICPs versus traditional conductive plastic markets.

ICPs have a wide variety of potential applications such as: electrostatic dissipation (ESD) control, light-emitting displays, electrostatic paintable plastics, antistatic packaging, corrosion-resistant paints/coatings, and other more esoteric markets such as: rechargeable batteries, electrolytic capacitors, smart windows, electronic membranes, etc. Currently, most ICPs lack sufficient conductivity to be effective for EMI shielding.

In many of these applications, the ICPs are beginning to impact conductively filled traditional thermoplastics, while the market for EO polymers is still not expected to become significant until the end of the decade, at the earliest.


This report will cover both ICPs and conductively filled thermoplastics in terms of their competitive scenario as well as to assess ICP markets separate from the traditional resins.

The latter comprises: ESD, antistatic packaging, electrostatic spray painting, etc., while the former is made up of electronic applications such as batteries, transistors, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), capacitors, corrosion-resistant coating products, and in the longer term, batteries, transistors, membranes, etc.


Several procedures were used to gather information and included


  • complete literature review on products, and technology;
  • patent search; and
  • contacts with key personnel from producers, suppliers and end-users.



Research analyst Mel Schlechter covers polymers and chemicals. He has over 30 years experience in the chemical industry, and specializes and has authored dozens of reports for BCC over a span exceeding 10 years. B.S., Chemistry; M.S., Organic Chemistry; M.B.A., Marketing.



APET                   amorphous PET

ABS                    acrylonitrile–butadiene–styrene

CRT                    cathode ray tube

dB                      decibels

EL Lamps            electroluminescent lamps

EMI                     electromagnetic interference

EMR                    electromagnetic radiation

ESD                    electrostatic dissipation

ETFE                   ethylene tetrafluoroethylene

EVA                    ethylene vinyl acetate

HIPS                   high-impact polystyrene

ICPs                    inherently conductive polymers

IDPs                    inherently dissipative polymers

ITO                      indium tin oxide

LCPs                     liquid crystal polymers

LEDs                   light-emitting diodes

LEPs                    light-emitting polymers

MHz                    megahertz

NLO                    nonlinear optics

OLEDs                organic light emitting devices

OEM                   original equipment manufacturer

OTFTs                 organic thin film transistors

PAN                    polyacrylonitrile

PBT                    polybutylene terephthalate

PC                      polycarbonates

PC/ABS              polycarbonate/ABS alloys

PCBs                  printed circuit boards

PDAs                  personal digital assistants

PEEK                  polyetheretherketone

PEI                     polyetherimide

PET                    polyethylene terephthalate

PETG                  glycol–modified PET

PF                      polyfluorenes

PLEDs                polymer light-emitting diodes

PMMA                polymethylmethacrylate

Poly OLEDs        polymeric OLEDs

p–OLEDs           polymeric OLEDs

PR                    photoreactive polymers

PPS                  polyphenylene sulfide

PPV                  polyphenylene vinylene

PTFE                 polytetrafluoroethylene

PVC                  polyvinyl chloride

PVDF                polyvinylidene fluoride

TPEs                 thermoplastic elastomers

TPUs                 thermoplastic urethanes

UHMWPE           ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene

VOCs               volatile organic compounds

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